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McGill researchers crack genetic code of Quebec C. difficile

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December 14, 2005

Source: McGill University:

McGill researchers crack genetic code of Quebec C. difficile

Source: University Relations Office (URO) [newswire]
December 14, 2005

Researchers at the McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre, MUHC and Jewish General Hospital have collaborated to successfully sequence the genome of a virulent strain of Clostridium difficile prevalent in Quebec since 2003 and similar to strains elsewhere in the world. This significant medical breakthrough marks the first time a strain of C. difficile has been sequenced in North America and only the second time this has been achieved worldwide. The sequencing of this genome will allow researchers to develop improved detection, treatment and prevention strategies for a strain of C. difficile responsible for more than three-quarters of cases in Quebec studied to date, as well as similar outbreaks in the US and parts of Europe. This breakthrough is yet another example of the leading role McGill and its affiliated hospitals are taking in C. difficile research.

The McGill University research team, led by Dr. Ken Dewar, Assistant Professor of Human Genetics at McGill and an investigator at the Research Institute of the MUHC, and Dr. Andre Dascal, Associate Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology at McGill and Senior Infectious Disease Physician at the Jewish General Hospital, isolated the nucleic acid of the Quebec strain of C. difficile and made the breakthrough using ultra high-throughput sequencing technology at Washington University in St. Louis. "We've sequenced the genome of a highly virulent Quebec strain of C. difficile," says Dr. Dewar. "We can now begin the search for other toxin and antibiotic resistance genes, and novel genome arrangements that will allow us to better understand why this strain causes severe disease."

"Our success in sequencing this genome has taken us a huge step forward in developing improved prevention and treatment methods, as well as more rapid diagnosis for an infection that is a serious concern, not just in Quebec but around the world," says Dr. Dascal. "Just as knowing the letters of the alphabet underlies the ability to read and write, this discovery will provide scientists with the basic information needed to understand why this strain is more virulent, to develop more precise diagnostic tests and to determine which treatments are the most effective."

This research was made possible by support from Génome Québec and Genome Canada, the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and the Jewish General Hospital Foundation, and the Genome Sequencing Center at the Washington University School of Medicine.
About Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile, also known as C. difficile, is a bacterial microbe that can cause an infection of the bowel. The usual symptoms are diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. Quebec-based research indicates that the most common C. difficile strain in Quebec is similar to others found in the US and Europe. The Quebec strain is resistant to a group of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, which may have contributed to its spread through the province. Regular hand washing with soap and water is the mainstay of prevention of C. difficile infection.
About the Jewish General Hospital

Since 1934, the Sir Mortimer B. Davis - Jewish General Hospital, a McGill University teaching hospital, has provided "Care for All," serving patients from diverse religious, linguistic and cultural backgrounds in Montreal, throughout Quebec and beyond. As one of the province's largest acute-care hospitals, the JGH has achieved a reputation for excellence in key medical specialties by continually expanding and upgrading its facilities for clinical treatment and teaching, as well as research at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research. For more, please visit the JGH website.
About the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC)

The MUHC is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.
About McGill University

McGill University is Canada's leading research-intensive university and has earned an international reputation for scholarly achievement and scientific discovery. Founded in 1821, McGill has 21 faculties and professional schools, which offer more than 300 programs from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. McGill attracts renowned professors and researchers from around the world and top students from more than 150 countries, creating one of the most dynamic and diverse education environments in North America. There are approximately 23,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 graduate students. It is one of two Canadian members of the American Association of Universities. McGill's two campuses are located in Montreal, Canada.
About Génome Québec

Génome Québec is a non-profit organization whose mission is to mobilize the academic and industrial sectors around genomics research. The organization invests and manages funds totalling more than 300 million dollars from the public and private sectors. It currently manages projects in six major sectors: human health, bioinformatics, ethics, the environment, forestry and agriculture. Since it was launched in 2000, it has generated more than 700 jobs and has led to creation of Montreal's McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre, a world-class research centre that is helping position Quebec on the international stage.
Cynthia Lee
Communications Officer
McGill University Relations Office
Suzanne Gold
Communications Specialist
Public Affairs & Communications, Jewish General Hospital
514-340-8222 Ext. 4120
Ian Popple
Communications Coordinator (research)
MUHC Public Relations and Communications



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