Yersinia pestis, the etiologic agent of plague, has shaped the course of human history, killing millions of people in three major pandemics. This bacterium is still endemic in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, where it poses a natural disease threat to human populations. Y. pestis has also recently received attention as a possible bioterrorism agent. Thus, rapid methods to distinguish between bioterrorism and naturally occurring plague infections are of major importance. Our study is the first to demonstrate that variable-number tandem repeats (VNTRs) in the Y. pestis genome can link human case isolates to those obtained from suspected environmental sources of infection. We demonstrate the valuable utility of VNTR markers in epidemiological investigations of naturally occurring plague and the forensic analysis of possible bioterrorism events.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)