Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Genome Sequencing Provides Unprecedented Insight into Causes of Pneumococcal Disease

Published: Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Last Updated: Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Technology will allow better surveillance of bacterial populations, understanding of vaccine effectiveness.

A new study led by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK has, for the first time, used genome sequencing technology to track the changes in a bacterial population following the introduction of a vaccine. The study follows how the population of pneumococcal bacteria changed following the introduction of the ‘Prevnar’ conjugate polysaccharide vaccine, which substantially reduced rates of pneumococcal disease across the U.S. The work demonstrates that the technology could be used in the future to monitor the effectiveness of vaccination or antibiotic use against different species of bacterial pathogens, and for characterizing new and emerging threats.

“This gives an unprecedented insight into the bacteria living and transmitting among us,” said co-author William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at HSPH. “We can characterize these bugs to an almost unimaginable degree of detail, and in so doing understand better what helps them survive even in the presence of an effective vaccine.”

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is present in many people’s noses and throats and is spread by coughing, sneezing, or other contact with respiratory secretions. The circumstances that cause it to become pathogenic are not fully understood. Rates of pneumococcal disease—an infection that can lead to pneumonia, meningitis, and other illnesses—dropped in young children following the introduction of a vaccine in 2000. However, strains of the bacteria that are not targeted by the vaccine rapidly increased and drug resistance appears to be on the rise.

The research, led by HSPH co-senior authors Hanage; Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology; and Stephen Bentley, senior scientist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, aimed to better understand the bacterial population’s response to vaccination. Whole genome sequencing—which reveals the DNA code for each bacterial strain to an unprecedented level of detail—was used to study a sample of 616 pneumococci collected in Massachusetts communities from 2001 to 2007.

This study confirmed that the parts of the bacterial population targeted by the vaccine have almost disappeared, and, surprisingly, revealed that they have been replaced by pre-existing rare types of bacteria. The genetic composition of the new population is very similar to the original one, except for a few genes that were directly affected by the vaccine. This small genetic alteration appears to be responsible for the large reduction in the rates of pneumococcal disease.

“The widespread use of whole genome sequencing will allow better surveillance of bacterial populations — even those that are genetically diverse — and improve understanding of their evolution,” said Lipsitch. “In this study, we were even able to see how quickly these bacteria transmit between different regions within Massachusetts and identify genes associated with bacteria in children of different ages.”

“In the future, we will be able to monitor evolutionary changes in real-time. If we can more quickly and precisely trace the emergence of disease-causing bacteria, we may be able to better target interventions to limit the burden of disease,” said Bentley.

Support for the study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, and the AXA Foundation.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Farming’s in Their DNA
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
On Top of the Flu
Chance for advance warning in search-based tracking method.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Escape Prevention
Studying flu virus structure brings us a step closer to a permanent vaccine.
Monday, October 05, 2015
Inroads Against Leukaemia
Potential for halting disease in molecule isolated from sea sponges.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Exposure to Pesticides In Childhood Linked to Cancer
Young children who are exposed to insecticides inside their homes may be slightly more at risk for developing leukemia or lymphoma during childhood, according to a meta-analysis by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Genetic Sleuthing
Sabeti team applies Ebola methods to shed light on spread of Lassa fever.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Why MS Symptoms May Improve As Days Get Shorter
New research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital offers an answer to ‘seasonal paradox’.
Monday, September 14, 2015
So Long, Snout
Research helps answer how birds got their beaks.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Asthma Cells Scramble Like ‘There’s a Fire Drill’
Movement offers insight into mechanisms of asthma, other diseases.
Friday, August 14, 2015
Delivering Hope in Ovarian Cancer
Gene therapy blocked chemoresistant tumor growth in mice.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Potential Treatment for Muscular Dystrophy
A new method for producing muscle cells could offer a better model for studying muscle diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, and for testing potential treatment options.
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
Expanding the Brain
A team of researchers has identified more than 40 new “imprinted” genes, in which either the maternal or paternal copy of a gene is expressed while the other is silenced.
Friday, July 31, 2015
Zebrafish Reveal Drugs that may Improve Bone Marrow Transplant
Compounds boost stem cell engraftment; could allow more matches for patients with cancer and blood diseases.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Pesticide Found in 70 Percent of Massachusetts’ Honey Samples
New Harvard University study says that the pesticide commonly found in honey samples is implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder.
Monday, July 27, 2015
The Secrets of Secretion
Researchers have hacked nature's blueprints to create a new technology that could have broad-reaching impact on drug delivery systems and self-healing and anti-fouling materials.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
The MaxSignal Colistin ELISA Test Kit from Bioo Scientific
Kit can help prevent the antibiotic apocalypse by keeping last resort drugs out of the food supply.
"Good" Mozzie Virus Might Hold Key to Fighting Human Disease
Australian scientists have discovered a new virus carried by one of the country’s most common pest mosquitoes.
Non-Disease Proteins Kill Brain Cells
Scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research into neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have shown that the mere presence of protein aggregates may be as important as their form and identity in inducing cell death in brain tissue.
Closing the Loop on an HIV Escape Mechanism
Research team finds that protein motions regulate virus infectivity.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Potential Treatment for Life-Threatening Viral Infections Revealed
The findings point to new therapies for Dengue, West Nile and Ebola.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos