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Division of Microbiology and Infection Seminar

14 May 2014, Room GLT2, Warwick Medical School Building, University of Warwick

Title: 'Predicting phenotype from genotype: the case of MRSA toxicity'


Dr Ruth Massey, Senior Lecturer, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath


A key factor affecting the severity and outcome of any infection is the virulence potential of the infecting organism. If the virulence phenotype could be determined straight from its genome sequence, next generation sequencing technology would provide for the first time an opportunity to make predictions of virulence at an early stage of infection. For Staphylococcus aureus, toxicity (the ability to lyse host cells) is a key factor in disease outcome. By adopting a genome-wide association study (GWAS) approach we have identified a large number of loci, as well as a network of epistatically interacting loci, that significantly affect toxicity. Despite this apparent complexity in toxicity regulation, a predictive model based on a set of significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and insertion and deletions events (indels) showed a high degree of accuracy in predicting an isolate's toxicity solely from the genetic signature at these sites. Our results thus highlight the potential of using sequence data to determine clinically relevant parameters and have further implications for understanding microbial virulence of this opportunistic pathogen.