Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Development and application of the active surveillance of pathogens microarray to monitor bacterial gene flux

Richard A Stabler1, Lisa F Dawson1, Petra CF Oyston2, Richard W Titball3, Jim Wade4, Jason Hinds5, Adam A Witney5 and Brendan W Wren1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, Keppel Street, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, WC1E 7HT, UK

2 Biomedical Sciences, DSTL, Porton Down, Salisbury, SP4 0JQ, UK

3 School of Biosciences, The University of Exeter, The Queen's Drive, Exeter, Devon, EX5 5QJ, UK

4 King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 9RS, UK

5 Bacterial microarray group, St. George's, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London, SW17 0RE, UK

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BMC Microbiology 2008, 8:177  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-8-177

Published: 9 October 2008



Human and animal health is constantly under threat by emerging pathogens that have recently acquired genetic determinants that enhance their survival, transmissibility and virulence. We describe the construction and development of an Active Surveillance of Pathogens (ASP) oligonucleotide microarray, designed to 'actively survey' the genome of a given bacterial pathogen for virulence-associated genes.


The microarray consists of 4958 reporters from 151 bacterial species and include genes for the identification of individual bacterial species as well as mobile genetic elements (transposons, plasmid and phage), virulence genes and antibiotic resistance genes. The ASP microarray was validated with nineteen bacterial pathogens species, including Francisella tularensis, Clostridium difficile, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecium and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. The ASP microarray identified these bacteria, and provided information on potential antibiotic resistance (eg sufamethoxazole resistance and sulfonamide resistance) and virulence determinants including genes likely to be acquired by horizontal gene transfer (e.g. an alpha-haemolysin).


The ASP microarray has potential in the clinic as a diagnostic tool, as a research tool for both known and emerging pathogens, and as an early warning system for pathogenic bacteria that have been recently modified either naturally or deliberately.