Scientists complete genome sequencing of Guangzhou bacteria linked to biowarfare

Scientists have completed the genome sequencing of Francisella guangzhouensis, a potentially life-threatening bacteria related to a strand used in biological warfare.

The sequencing has revealed a new branch of the genus.

The genome sequencing has distanced the China strand from Francisella tularensis,  also known as rabbit fever, which was one of the seven standarized biological weapons developed before the U.S. biological warfare program ended in 1969.

While information on F.guangzhouensis is still being researched, it’s cousin F.tularensis  can be fatal,  causing various symptoms that are often mistake for common illness.  In most cases, F.tularensis is treated with common antibiotics, according the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers from the FOI–Swedish Defence Research Agency obtained a strand of the F.guangzhouensis which was collected from water in air conditioners in the southern Guangzhou province in 2008.  It was stored  by the Public Health England Culture Collection before being transferred for research.

They grew the strand using  heart cysteine agar (HCA)  and extracted the DNA for sequencing.

Prior to this research, there were two major groups, or clades, of the strand known. The group related to the deadly rabbit fever is classified under “Clade I”.

Upon successful sequencing, researchers found the similarity of F.guangzhouensis genomes and Clade I genomes was only 75.6% and 80% of genomes with Clade II.

“The phylogeny shows that F. guangzhouensis does not belong to any of the two previously known Francisellamain clades or the recently published F. endociliophora clade,” the study, Complete Genome Sequence of F. guangzhouensis type strain 08HL01032T  , Isolated from Air-Conditioning Systems in China, said.

“This isolate forms a new separate branching clade in the Francisella genus.”

It was published online at the American Center for Microbiology on March 19, 2015.