Why Is Gonorrhea Stealing Our DNA?

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Not cool, gonorrhea. Not cool! First you move in, then you give us painful urination, and now it turns out you're borrowing our DNA without asking? You're the worst roommate ever.

Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered sequences of human DNA in a number of samples of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the gonorrhea bacterium. It's not yet clear what the DNA is doing there. Apparently, this kind of thing is not totally without precedent: Eryn Brown for the Los Angeles Times reports that "scientists have observed similar genetic transfers across species... including relatively frequent transfers between different bacteria, between bacteria and viruses or between bacteria and other microbes such as yeast." But Rebecca Boyle at Popular Science notes that "this is the first time that scientists have seen a bacteria pick up the genes, rather than depositing them." And no one is sure why.

So that's great! Safe sex, people.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.