What is Brucella?
Bacteria of the genus Brucella are the causative agent of the serious zoonotic disease, brucellosis. The World Health Organization considers that it is the world's most widespread zoonosis. The genus is divided into at least 6 species, each with a preferential mammalian host. Species are subdivided into biovars and, recently, new species have been discovered preferentially infecting marine mammals. Several Brucella species also infect man, causing a serious debilitating disease known as Malta fever. The zoonotic disease is readily transmitted to man, either following contact with infected animals or following the ingestion of contaminated dairy or animal products. Little is known about the genetic basis of Brucella virulence, and nothing on the basis of host preference. No vaccine is available for human prophylaxis.
Due to the complexity of disease symptoms and the observation that Brucellosis outbreaks develop and spread slowly with a long incubation period that hinders epidemiological tracing, controlling brucellosis requires a coordinated multidisciplinary approach that can only be achieved by combining scientific, medical, and veterinary expertise. Development of new vaccines will require understanding the virulence of the bacterium. Also required are new methods for strain identification, to use in both animal and human diagnosis and in molecular epidemiology.
A complete understanding the genomes of the members of the genus is a fundamental and essential component to meeting these needs, as is a comprehensive list of strain specific genetic markers and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The analysis of this new data resource will allow us to establish the genomic signatures of Brucella virulence and host preference, and to begin associating genomic variance with disease presentation.
Collaborators for this project include:
- David O'Callaghan - Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM), NÎmes, France.
- Adrian Whatmore - FAO/WHO Collaborating Centre for Brucellosis, OIE Brucellosis Reference Centre, Veterinary Laboratories Agency. Surrey, United Kingdom
- Renee Tsolis - University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
This sequencing project was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health funded Genome Sequencing Center for Infectious Diseases at the Broad Institute.