Case Studies

Microbes: Superbugs — Choosing our enemies

Studies of the genomes of strains of Staphylococcus aureus have provided evidence for the rapid evolution of drug resistance. S. aureus is now best known to the UK public as its methicillin-resistant form, MRSA. Researchers have found that this bacterium has evolved a ‘Pick’n’Mix’ genome that enables it to acquire new characteristics. The ability to share and exchange genes is vital to the S. aureus’s spread and success, presenting a major and constantly-changing clinical challenge.

In this Case Study students will compare the genomes of MRSA and its genetic cousin MSSA to locate DNA differences and mobile elements that could be expected to improve the bacterium’s resistance to antibiotics and its ability to cause disease.

Case study written by: Bronwyn Terrill, Steve Cross and Matt Holden at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton.