Researchers have deciphered the genetic makeup of one of humanity's oldest, deadliest and hardiest adversaries the cholera microbe.
Scientists say the research may help spur new vaccines or drugs to treat cholera, one of the most efficient killers of all diseases.
"This will be the starting point for most future studies," said microbiologist Matthew Waldor of Tufts Medical School in Boston. He co-wrote an accompanying commentary on the research, which was published today in the journal Nature.
"Knowing the (cholera) genome gives us a tremendous opportunity to better understand its role in the environment and ... also its effect on humans," Rita Colwell, director of the National Science Foundation, said at a Washington news conference discussing the report.
Researchers at The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., led the study team that successfully analyzed the entire genetic structure of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
They found that the germ carries two chromosomes with a total of 3,885 genes. They are formed from about 4 million chemical building blocks known as base pairs. The researchers identified the genes by chemically breaking up strands of the germ's DNA. They analyzed the fragments separately and later figured out how to reassemble them in order.