Researchers look to similar bacteria to find answers on anthrax

Study results from a Defense Threat Reduction Agency Chemical Biological, Joint Science and Technology Office (DTRA CB/JSTO) program released on Monday show bacteria in the soil might provide an answer to combat anthrax.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory Principal Investigator Alistar Bishop identified genes in Bacillus thuringiensis that allow the bacteria to survive in soil. Researchers believe the strain is related to Bacillus anthracis, and by studying it, they will gain a greater understanding of the anthrax bacteria.

Researchers believe that B. thuringiensis moves through the soil in a similar manner to the way B. anthracis is believed to move through its environment.

Several classes of genetic sequences were found to be relevant, including enzymatic properties, uptake and transport, and gene regulation and sensory loci. The gene sequences helped researchers better understand what makes the Bacillus species persistent.

Current anthrax decontamination processes take months and can cause damage to the environment and equipment because of oxidizing agents.

DTRA CB is working to use the gene sequencing information to develop a process that will shorten the decontamination time to a few weeks and not damage the environment or equipment.

Bishop's article "Identification of Genes Required by Bacillus thuringiensis for Survival in Soil by Transposon-Directed Insertion Site Sequencing" was published in October in Current Microbiology. The program is led by Dr. Sari Paikoff.