Deadly Singaporean GBS Strain Sequenced

A collaboration between research labs and hospitals has quickly sequenced the genome of a strain of Group B Streptococcus responsible for a recent outbreak in Singapore.

AsianScientist (Sep. 22, 2015) – Scientists from from Singapore have successfully sequenced the genome of a strain of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria responsible for the increase in severe infections observed in Singapore this year.

Most strains of GBS bacteria, found in the gut and urinary tract of about 15 to 30 percent of adult humans, pose little danger of disease to healthy people. The recent outbreak of GBS is unusual as it is associated with the consumption of raw Song (Asian bighead carp) and Toman (snakehead fish).

Applying the latest sequencing technology, the team from Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and National University of Singapore (NUS) was able to arrive quickly at the complete genome sequence of a GBS isolate that caused meningitis in a local patient.

The availability of this genome sequence is a crucial starting point for further studies to understand factors responsible for the strain’s ability to cause serious disease and to develop tests to rapidly detect its presence in food and for clinical testing. The team is racing ahead to develop new tests for detection of this bacteria strain.

This work is a collaboration between Professor Swaine Chen, a senior research scientist from GIS and assistant professor NUS, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Professor Timothy Barkham, senior consultant in laboratory medicine at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and associate professor at the department of microbiology in NUS.

“Sequencing is a key first step in modern infectious disease outbreak investigation. Having the sequence will help with ongoing studies to understand how and why this strain can cause serious disease,” Chen said.

The authors are making the sequence database publicly available to speed up research on this strain of bacteria. For instance, diagnostic tests for this bacteria infection initially involved time-consuming and expensive methods to identify the strain. But with the genome sequence of the bacteria, it would help develop simpler tests that will enable hospitals to detect the strain quickly and cost effectively.

“While we are gratified to see the reduction in cases recently, the GIS sequence can now be studied to look for clues as to why this strain causes serious disease and where it may have come from,” commented Barkham.


Source: Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
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