Japanese researchers said Friday that they have produced the world’s first complete genetic sequencing of a bacterium which is a major source of human infection and one of the most resistant organisms in hospital-acquired infections.

The Japanese team, led by Keiichi Hiramatsu, professor of Tokyo’s Juntendo University, said it reported the findings in the latest edition of the medical journal Lancet, published Friday.

The team reported it completed the gene sequence on methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) to understand how it causes infections in humans and to address the worsening worldwide problem of infections acquired in hospitals. Methicillin is a leading antibiotic.

According to the report, staphylococcus aureus — a potentially pathogenic bacterium found mainly in nasal membranes and the skin of warmblooded animals — produces many toxins and “has acquired resistance to practically all antibiotics.”

Infections by staphylococcus aureus range from mild skin infections and food poisoning to severe and life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia and sepsis, the report says.

As a result, the complete genome analysis is considered vital in discovering “important new targets for drug development” to overcome the organism’s resistance to antibiotics.

According to the report, the whole genome sequence used two related staphylococcus aureus strains — the ordinary MRSA strain N315 and a variant of an MRSA strain called vancomycin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) strain Mu50.

Vancomycin was the only effective antibiotic against MRSA until 1997, the report says.

Hiramatsu said the study shows the MRSA genome possesses about 2,600 genes, of which 70 were identified for the first time as bearing pathogenic qualities.

The report also says the genome of staphylococcus aureus was found to be composed of a “complex mixture of genes” and that its capability to infect people “of diverse genetic backgrounds” was traced to a “remarkable ability to acquire useful genes from various organisms.”

The team worked began its work in April 2000 in cooperation with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation. ,which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.