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1.  Finished Genome Sequence of Bacillus cereus Strain 03BB87, a Clinical Isolate with B. anthracis Virulence Genes 
Genome Announcements  2015;3(1):e01446-14.
Bacillus cereus strain 03BB87, a blood culture isolate, originated in a 56-year-old male muller operator with a fatal case of pneumonia in 2003. Here we present the finished genome sequence of that pathogen, including a 5.46-Mb chromosome and two plasmids (209 and 52 Kb, respectively).
PMCID: PMC4299909  PMID: 25593267
2.  Comparative Assessment of Automated Nucleic Acid Sample Extraction Equipment for Biothreat Agents 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2014;52(4):1232-1234.
Magnetic beads offer superior impurity removal and nucleic acid selection over older extraction methods. The performances of nucleic acid extraction of biothreat agents in blood or buffer by easyMAG, MagNA Pure, EZ1 Advanced XL, and Nordiag Arrow were evaluated. All instruments showed excellent performance in blood; however, the easyMAG had the best precision and versatility.
PMCID: PMC3993465  PMID: 24452173
3.  Development and Evaluation of a Panel of Filovirus Sequence Capture Probes for Pathogen Detection by Next-Generation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107007.
A detailed understanding of the circulating pathogens in a particular geographic location aids in effectively utilizing targeted, rapid diagnostic assays, thus allowing for appropriate therapeutic and containment procedures. This is especially important in regions prevalent for highly pathogenic viruses co-circulating with other endemic pathogens such as the malaria parasite. The importance of biosurveillance is highlighted by the ongoing Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa. For example, a more comprehensive assessment of the regional pathogens could have identified the risk of a filovirus disease outbreak earlier and led to an improved diagnostic and response capacity in the region. In this context, being able to rapidly screen a single sample for multiple pathogens in a single tube reaction could improve both diagnostics as well as pathogen surveillance. Here, probes were designed to capture identifying filovirus sequence for the ebolaviruses Sudan, Ebola, Reston, Taï Forest, and Bundibugyo and the Marburg virus variants Musoke, Ci67, and Angola. These probes were combined into a single probe panel, and the captured filovirus sequence was successfully identified using the MiSeq next-generation sequencing platform. This panel was then used to identify the specific filovirus from nonhuman primates experimentally infected with Ebola virus as well as Bundibugyo virus in human sera samples from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thus demonstrating the utility for pathogen detection using clinical samples. While not as sensitive and rapid as real-time PCR, this panel, along with incorporating additional sequence capture probe panels, could be used for broad pathogen screening and biosurveillance.
PMCID: PMC4160210  PMID: 25207553
4.  Draft Genome Assembly of Acinetobacter baumannii ATCC 19606 
Genome Announcements  2014;2(4):e00832-14.
Acinetobacter baumannii is an emerging nosocomial pathogen, and therefore high-quality genome assemblies for this organism are needed to aid in detection, diagnostic, and treatment technologies. Here we present the improved draft assembly of A. baumannii ATCC 19606 in two scaffolds. This 3,953,621-bp genome contains 3,750 coding regions and has a 39.1% G+C content.
PMCID: PMC4153487  PMID: 25146140
5.  Cross-Institute Evaluations of Inhibitor-Resistant PCR Reagents for Direct Testing of Aerosol and Blood Samples Containing Biological Warfare Agent DNA 
Rapid pathogen detection is crucial for the timely introduction of therapeutics. Two groups (one in the United Kingdom and one in the United States) independently evaluated inhibitor-resistant PCR reagents for the direct testing of substrates. In the United Kingdom, a multiplexed Bacillus anthracis (target) and Bacillus subtilis (internal-control) PCR was used to evaluate 4 reagents against 5 PCR inhibitors and down-selected the TaqMan Fast Virus 1-Step master mix (Life Technologies Inc.). In the United States, four real-time PCR assays (targeting B. anthracis, Brucella melitensis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus [VEEV], and Orthopoxvirus spp.) were used to evaluate 5 reagents (plus the Fast Virus master mix) against buffer, blood, and soil samples and down-selected the KAPA Blood Direct master mix (KAPA Biosystems Inc.) with added Platinum Taq (Life Technologies). The down-selected reagents underwent further testing. In the United Kingdom experiments, both reagents were tested against seven contrived aerosol collector samples containing B. anthracis Ames DNA and B. subtilis spores from a commercial formulation (BioBall). In PCR assays with reaction mixtures containing 40% crude sample, an airfield-collected sample induced inhibition of the B. subtilis PCR with the KAPA reagent and complete failure of both PCRs with the Fast Virus reagent. However, both reagents allowed successful PCR for all other samples—which inhibited PCRs with a non-inhibitor-resistant reagent. In the United States, a cross-assay limit-of-detection (LoD) study in blood was conducted. The KAPA Blood Direct reagent allowed the detection of agent DNA (by four PCRs) at higher concentrations of blood in the reaction mixture (2.5%) than the Fast Virus reagent (0.5%), although LoDs differed between assays and reagent combinations. Across both groups, the KAPA Blood Direct reagent was determined to be the optimal reagent for inhibition relief in PCR.
PMCID: PMC3911037  PMID: 24334660
6.  Evaluation of Inhibitor-Resistant Real-Time PCR Methods for Diagnostics in Clinical and Environmental Samples 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73845.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is commonly used for pathogen detection in clinical and environmental samples. These sample matrices often contain inhibitors of PCR, which is a primary reason for sample processing; however, the purification process is highly inefficient, becoming unacceptable at lower signature concentrations. One potential solution is direct PCR assessment without sample processing. Here, we evaluated nine inhibitor-resistant PCR reagents for direct detection of Francisella tularensis in seven different clinical and environmental samples using an established real-time PCR assay to assess ability to overcome PCR inhibition. While several of these reagents were designed for standard PCR, the described inhibitor resistant properties (ex. Omni Klentaq can amplify target DNA samples of up to 20% whole blood or soil) led to our evaluation with real-time PCR. A preliminary limit of detection (LOD) was determined for each chemistry in whole blood and buffer, and LODs (20 replicates) were determined for the top five chemistries in each matrix (buffer, whole blood, sputum, stool, swab, soil, and sand). Not surprisingly, no single chemistry performed the best across all of the different matrices evaluated. For instance, Phusion Blood Direct PCR Kit, Phire Hot Start DNA polymerase, and Phire Hot Start DNA polymerase with STR Boost performed best for direct detection in whole blood while Phire Hot Start DNA polymerase with STR Boost were the only reagents to yield an LOD in the femtogram range for soil. Although not the best performer across all matrices, KAPA Blood PCR kit produced the most consistent results among the various conditions assessed. Overall, while these inhibitor resistant reagents show promise for direct amplification of complex samples by real-time PCR, the amount of template required for detection would not be in a clinically relevant range for most matrices.
PMCID: PMC3767612  PMID: 24040090
7.  Genomic Comparison of Escherichia coli O104:H4 Isolates from 2009 and 2011 Reveals Plasmid, and Prophage Heterogeneity, Including Shiga Toxin Encoding Phage stx2 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48228.
In May of 2011, an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain that had acquired a Shiga toxin 2-converting phage caused a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea in Europe which was notable for its high prevalence of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases. Several studies have described the genomic inventory and phylogenies of strains associated with the outbreak and a collection of historical E. coli O104:H4 isolates using draft genome assemblies. We present the complete, closed genome sequences of an isolate from the 2011 outbreak (2011C–3493) and two isolates from cases of bloody diarrhea that occurred in the Republic of Georgia in 2009 (2009EL–2050 and 2009EL–2071). Comparative genome analysis indicates that, while the Georgian strains are the nearest neighbors to the 2011 outbreak isolates sequenced to date, structural and nucleotide-level differences are evident in the Stx2 phage genomes, the mer/tet antibiotic resistance island, and in the prophage and plasmid profiles of the strains, including a previously undescribed plasmid with homology to the pMT virulence plasmid of Yersinia pestis. In addition, multiphenotype analysis showed that 2009EL–2071 possessed higher resistance to polymyxin and membrane-disrupting agents. Finally, we show evidence by electron microscopy of the presence of a common phage morphotype among the European and Georgian strains and a second phage morphotype among the Georgian strains. The presence of at least two stx2 phage genotypes in host genetic backgrounds that may derive from a recent common ancestor of the 2011 outbreak isolates indicates that the emergence of stx2 phage-containing E. coli O104:H4 strains probably occurred more than once, or that the current outbreak isolates may be the result of a recent transfer of a new stx2 phage element into a pre-existing stx2-positive genetic background.
PMCID: PMC3486847  PMID: 23133618
8.  Complete and SOS-Mediated Response of Staphylococcus aureus to the Antibiotic Ciprofloxacin▿  
Journal of Bacteriology  2006;189(2):531-539.
Staphylococcus aureus infections can be difficult to treat due to both multidrug resistance and the organism's remarkable ability to persist in the host. Persistence and the evolution of resistance may be related to several complex regulatory networks, such as the SOS response, which modifies transcription in response to environmental stress. To understand how S. aureus persists during antibiotic therapy and eventually emerges resistant, we characterized its global transcriptional response to ciprofloxacin. We found that ciprofloxacin induces prophage mobilization as well as significant alterations in metabolism, most notably the up-regulation of the tricarboxylic acid cycle. In addition, we found that ciprofloxacin induces the SOS response, which we show, by comparison of a wild-type strain and a non-SOS-inducible lexA mutant strain, includes the derepression of 16 genes. While the SOS response of S. aureus is much more limited than those of Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis, it is similar to that of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and includes RecA, LexA, several hypothetical proteins, and a likely error-prone Y family polymerase whose homologs in other bacteria are required for induced mutation. We also examined induced mutation and found that either the inability to derepress the SOS response or the lack of the LexA-regulated polymerase renders S. aureus unable to evolve antibiotic resistance in vitro in response to UV damage. The data suggest that up-regulation of the tricarboxylic acid cycle and induced mutation facilitate S. aureus persistence and evolution of resistance during antibiotic therapy.
PMCID: PMC1797410  PMID: 17085555
9.  The Quorum Sensing Negative Regulators EsaR and ExpREcc, Homologues within the LuxR Family, Retain the Ability To Function as Activators of Transcription 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(23):7001-7007.
Most LuxR homologues function as activators of transcription during the process of quorum sensing, but a few, including EsaR and ExpREcc, negatively impact gene expression. The LuxR-activated luxI promoter and LuxR binding site, the lux box, were used in artificial contexts to assess the potential for transcriptional activation and DNA binding by EsaR and ExpREcc. Although the acyl-homoserine lactone responsiveness of both proteins is the opposite of that shown by most LuxR family members, EsaR and ExpREcc have preserved the ability to interact with RNA polymerase and activate transcription despite their low affinity for the lux box DNA.
PMCID: PMC262718  PMID: 14617666

Results 1-9 (9)