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Researcher helps find out why bugs become resistant to antibiotics

By Julie Bierach, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A local scientist is among a group of researchers that have discovered a copy of the entire genome of a parasite inside the genome of some insects.

That could have implications for the study of evolution and give scientists a better understanding as to why these "bugs" become resistant to antibiotics.

The bacterial parasite Wolbachia infects about 20 percent of all insect species. It's significant because it also lives in nematode parasites, worm-like organisms that cause disease in humans. That's according to Dr. Peter Fischer, a professor at Washington University, "More than 150-million people are infected in the tropical countries with the filarial nematodes and the dog heartworm also have this Wolbachia bacteria."

Fischer says they've discovered that genes are transferred more frequently between bacteria and multicellular organisms and that could affect genome-sequencing centers. Researchers had assumed that bacteria sequences found in such organisms were simply due to contaminated samples.