Computational characterization of genomic islands and their origins

Bacteria are the most abundant type of life on earth and are constantly adapting to survive in different environments. The species we see today are highly diverse, reflecting adaptations to massive environmental changes over billions of years. Some adaptations are of significant medical concern because they result in new strains of disease-causing bacteria, greater virulence in existing bacteria, and increased resistance to antibiotics and other drugs that kill or suppress bacteria. These bacterial adaptations are associated with “genomic islands,” clusters of genes the bacteria appear to have acquired from other bacteria, viruses and organisms. The genes of hundreds of disease-causing and non-infectious bacteria have been identified. Morgan Langille is using this information to develop a database of bacterial genomic islands. He aims to identify the origins of bacterial genomic islands and their role in causing disease. This information may enable scientists to better understand and develop new drugs that target infectious disease-causing bacteria.