Ion Torrent tech can determine if bacteria has bioterror origins

DNA technology developed by Ion Torrent, a biotechnology company based in Guilford, Conn., can detect whether a strain of bacteria arose naturally or if it is the result of bioterrorism.
If a new strain of bacteria causes serious illness, it is of vital importance to learn if it has been modified by bioterrorists so that health officials can devise the proper public health response, New Scientist reports.

The DNA sequencing method developed by Ion Torrent was used to evaluate such a situation recently in a matter of hours rather than months. In June, a 39-year-old man was rushed to the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, with trouble breathing and swollen organs. Doctors at the hospital feared the worst.
"The concern was that it was anthrax," James Musser, the head of pathology at the hospital, said, according to New Scientist.
Musser's team used the Ion Torrent technology to identify the infection's source as Bacillus cereus, which is closely related to B. anthracis, which causes anthrax. Because B. cereus only causes severe infections when it has gained a cluster of genes from the anthrax bacteria, the team wondered if the strain had been altered by bioterrorists.
The Ion Torrent Technology converted chemical signals from conventional DNA sequencing into electronic pulses to be rapidly analyzed by a microchip. Within a day, the results showed a lack of "genetic footprints" that would suggest a natural bacterium had been altered.
The analysis did not prevent the patient's death, but the technology was able to rapidly rule out a deliberate attack.
"This represents a new frontier in medicine," Musser said, according to New Scientist.