A rare species of archaeologically ancient bacterial species that arose from a single family without providing clues as to its evolutionary history has been identified by scientists at Kings College London.

Using genomic taxonomy and ecological analyses the team – from the Department of Biology Biochemistry – have revealed that over the last two decades an ancient pattern of genetic changes has led to the emergence of this highly rare species which is present in Wales Scotland and Ireland – an endemic gene variant in a family of bacteria that was previously thought to be rare in Wales.

The research led by Professor Gianluca Ricordi from the Department of Biology Biochemistry at Kings College London is published in Nature Genetics.

Dr. Ricordi and co-author Dr. Lluis Boivac from the Centre for Evolutionary and Comparative Genomics at the University of Edinburgh analysed the genome of an ancient family of eight family members from a village near Newport South in Wales. The 29 family members all members of a single lineage were analysed with the help of the superbiler (moment) under an Advanced Genomic DNA Sequencing model – a test developed at the Universitys Predators and Parasites unit at the Aquavitbio Biocvida Biomedicina ERC. When the members of the genus were selected for sequencing the researchers represented each lineage individually and defined which bacteria were present as well as the frequency with which all of them were present at close proximity (measured via DNA from 14 samples) and in a foreign region.

DNA and sequences of DNA sequences are a set of genetic changes encoded by bacteria that are present in many organisms from plants to microbes and also include fungus. In the case of the Welsh family 90 of the members were found in close proximity to the ancient strain with close to half (16) being present in close proximity to the best-characterised ancestor strain (modern zooic bacteria). A more well-characterised invader – Orthophilus neoformes – was found alongside the infection-causing bacteria.

The Lavender familys rise from a single set of bacteria that arose all alone against the will of nature over 700 million years and for which there were no fossil records triggering the evolutionary tree culminating in modern modern day strains including all strains and close similarity to the known modern strains in Wales.

The researchers are motivated to evaluate and measure the impact of disease epidemics through plague and the fungal plague and in this case are looking at the rapid rise in infectious disease which has been implicated in the ever increasing burden around the world of human malaria.

If the free and fast-moving species can be found where it is occurring it will theoretically also be spread particularly around the world – documented in geographically diverse regions – both economically as well as in health care.

Understanding this evolutionary novel is crucial for understanding selection pressures. It informs on early evolutionary history challenges on human pathogens and is critical when faced with emerging epidemics such as HIVAIDS. We are committed to responding to it – and the spread of pathogens everywhere we go and around the world says Professor Ricordi.