Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OU Researchers Crack Genetic Code for Strep Throat Bacteria

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

OU Researchers Crack Genetic Code for Strep Throat Bacteria

Article excerpt

University of Oklahoma scientists have cracked the genetic code for the bacteria that causes strep throat, rheumatic fever and a flesh-eating disease, leading to hopes that better treatments can be found for these illnesses.

"We've got the complete dictionary on this bug," Oklahoma microbiologist Joseph J. Ferretti said. "That's really exciting. Now that we know some of its secrets, we can find a way to combat it."

Ferretti said penicillin is a strong treatment for illnesses caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, but he hopes researchers may be able to develop new antibiotics and vaccinations to better fight Streptococcus now that its complete DNA sequence has been determined. There are no proven vaccines to prevent Streptococcus infections, Ferretti said.

Ferretti headed a five-year project, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, at the university's Health Sciences Center.

The genetic sequence will be published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is online for scientists around the world. The information is public and free to other medical researchers because it was developed at a public university.

While Ferretti declined to put a timeline on when the research might lead to better drugs, he said the research "will greatly accelerate all previous efforts to fight" Streptococcus.

Illnesses like strep throat and rheumatic fever can be contracted through the air and contact with other people.

Ferretti said researchers obtained a strain of the microorganism through a wound on a patient who had a serious infection. They grew the strain, isolated its DNA, then used computers to sequence the genetic code.

Scientists throughout the world had input on the project. Ferretti has researched Streptococcus for 30 years.

The bacteria causes thousands of human illnesses each year, including strep throat, impetigo, pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome, blood poisoning, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, rheumatic heart disease and a flesh-eating disease called necrotizing fasciitis. …

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