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J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Sep;101(3):579-93.

The Bacillus cereus group: novel aspects of population structure and genome dynamics.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Oslo, Norway.



To provide new insights into the population and genomic structure of the Bacillus cereus group of bacteria.


The genetic relatedness among B. cereus group strains was assessed by multilocus sequence typing (MLST) using an optimized scheme based on seven chromosomal housekeeping genes. A set of 48 strains from different clinical sources was included, and six clonal complexes containing several genetically similar isolates from unrelated patients were identified. Interestingly, several clonal groups contained strains that were isolated from similar human sources. Furthermore, comparative whole genome sequence analysis of 16 strains led to the discovery of novel ubiquitous genome features of the B. cereus group, such as atypical group II introns, IStrons, and hitherto uncharacterized repeated elements.


The B. cereus group constitutes a coherent population unified by the presence of ubiquitous and specific genetic elements which do not show any pattern, either in their sequences or genomic locations, which allows to differentiate between the member species of the group. Nevertheless, the population is very dynamic, as particular lineages of clinical origin can evolve to form clonal complexes. At the genome level, the dynamic behaviour is indicated by the presence of numerous mobile and repeated elements.


The B. cereus group of bacteria comprises species that are of medical and economic importance. The MLST data, along with the primers and protocols used, will be available in a public, web-accessible database (

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