Every year hundreds of thousands of people die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by ETEC bacteria. A study published in Nature Genetics describes how Swedish researchers have mapped the spread of strains of ETEC bacteria around the world. It provides key information about how pathogenic bacteria arise, which will be important for the Swedish diarrhoea vaccine currently under development.
Researchers at the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy have made a major breakthrough in collaboration with colleagues from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and universities in Japan, Germany and the USA, among others.
A study published in Nature Genetics details how the Gothenburg researchers used comprehensive DNA analyses to reveal the ETEC bacteria's genetic composition – an analysis that also makes it possible to map how the bacteria spread.
"We can see that some of the dangerous strains of ETEC derive from a single bacterium that has divided and spread right around the world," says Astrid von Mentzer, doctoral student at the Sahlgrenska Academy. "This may sound like bad news, but it actually means that the vaccine that we are developing on the basis of the most common types of bacteria will be of global benefit."
The researchers were also able to demonstrate in the study that some of the ETEC groups identified came into existence as far back as 174 years ago. Astrid von Mentzer feels that this new information about the genetic composition of ETEC bacteria and how they spread means that we are a step closer to reducing the prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases worldwide.