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Bacteria Gene Pattern Deciphered

March 10, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Scientists have deciphered the gene pattern of a bacteria that commonly causes meningitis and researchers said it may help in the development of new vaccines.

In a study appearing Friday in the journal Science, American, British and Italian researchers report they have sequenced the genome, or genetic pattern, of a meningococcus bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis, Type B.

Researchers, using the new understanding of the bacteria’s genes, then found seven proteins produced by the organism that may be used to make a vaccine.

Meningococcus bacteria is a common cause in small children of meningitis, a disease that can be fatal if not treated rapidly and aggressively with antibiotics. The disease involves inflammation of the covering of the brain and can lead to intense headache, fever, convulsions, coma and death.

There are several strains of the bacteria and vaccines have been developed for some of those. But no successful vaccine has been produced for Type B, the most prevalent form of meningococcal infection in the U.S. and Britain.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md.; the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and the Chiron Corporation labs in Siena, Italy.

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