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TB outbreaks could be 'solved' by DNA tracking

Reconstructing the spread of killer diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) from person to person using DNA sequencing quickly identifies the origin and movement of pathogens. This approach is directly informing public health strategies to control infectious disease outbreaks, says a scientist speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference at the University of Warwick.

A team from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, Canada used whole-genome sequencing to analyse the bacterial DNA in samples from 36 of 41 infected individuals in a TB outbreak. They were able to track the pathogen's movements through the community in British Columbia, including where it started and who infected whom. From this they could identify key persons, places, and behaviours that contributed to the spread of disease. They showed how the social structure of a community contributed to the rapid spread of TB and that a rise in crack cocaine use in the area may have triggered the outbreak.
 
 

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