Genotyping of Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis

Authors: Andrea Ciammaruconi, Saverio Grassi, Riccardo De Santis, Giovanni Faggioni, Valentina Pittiglio, Raffaele D'Amelio, Alessandra Carattoli, Antonio Cassone, Gilles Vergnaud, and Florigio Lista

Citation: BMC Microbiology 2008, 8:21doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-21

Published: 29 January 2008

To read the original article, click here. Originally published in BioMed Central. Open Access.



Anthrax and plague are diseases caused by Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis respectively. These bacteria are etiological agents for worldwide zoonotic diseases and are considered among the most feared potential bioterror agents. Strain differentiation is difficult for these microorganisms because of their high intraspecies genome homogeneity. Moreover, fast strain identification and comparison with known genotypes may be crucial for naturally occurring outbreaks versus bioterrorist events discrimination.


Thirty-nine B. anthracis and ten Y. pestis strains, representative of the species genetic diversity, were genotyped by Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer using previously described Multiple Locus VNTR Analysis assays (MLVA). Results were compared to previous data obtained by standard genotyping system (capillary electrophoresis on automatic sequencer) and, when necessary, direct amplicon sequencing. A reference comparison table containing actual fragment sizes, sequencer sizes and Agilent sizes was produced.


In this report an automated DNA electrophoresis apparatus which provides a cheaper alternative compared to capillary electrophoresis approaches was applied for genotyping of B. anthracis and Y. pestis. This equipment, uses pre-cast gels and provides easy transportation, low maintenance and overall general logistic requirements and costs, is easy to set up and provides rapid analysis. This platform is a candidate for on-site MLVA genotyping of biothreat agents as well as other bacterial pathogens. It is an alternative to the more expensive and demanding capillary electrophoresis methods, and to the less expensive but more time-consuming classical gel electrophoresis approach.

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