Bring me more genomes
January 26, 2013 7:10 AM   Subscribe

"If the history of public health has until now been embodied by the map—as in British physician John Snow’s famous map, which allowed him to curb the London cholera outbreak of 1854 and to found, in doing so, the modern field of epidemiology—Snitkin was embarking on a new kind of epidemiology: one founded on the phylogenetic tree." Writing for Wired, Carl Zimmer describes how Evan Snitkin and Julie Segre used genome sequencing to halt a bacterial outbreak at the National Institute of Health's Clinical Center. (via The Feature)
posted by catlet (9 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
That was fascinating — and a little terrifying at the amount of effort the NIH had to bring to bear to squash a bacterial outbreak confined to a single hospital.
posted by RichardP at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2013

The most amazing part of this was that they were able to get plumbers at NIH in building 10 to show up and quickly do plumbing.

A "friend of mine" remembers having a fairly large leak in a steam pipe in lab that was just left for weeks. That "friend" put up signs offering free steam baths and just kept working.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:37 AM on January 26, 2013

So just looking at the chart of dots (and not knowing what the circles and colors represent - if they represent anything, or are just something Wired came up with) how did patient 1 manage to be the source of three other infections, all of which had different polymorphisms between themselves but none had the four represented by red dots in patient 1? Doesn't that kind of suggest a stepping stone of some sort between 1 and the other 3?

Or am I overthinking an example infographic is a piece of scientific reporting?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:00 AM on January 26, 2013

Patient 1 was a host to more than one strain of KPC. Patient 3 was infected by the strain from patient 1's throat, which is not represented by the top line of the chart. The first KPC strain sequenced from patient 1 is shown at the top of chart (the second strain is last).
posted by RichardP at 8:05 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Great read, thanks for posting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:44 AM on January 26, 2013

Great story.
posted by francesca too at 10:55 AM on January 26, 2013

Great story. I have one question that maybe the biotech-savvy people here could answer. It's great that they can sequence all the different strains. Why can't they do anything with this knowledge, to come up with a drug or something that kills the bacteria? Is it the amount of testing that would have to be done before such a drug could be used?
posted by A dead Quaker at 11:50 AM on January 26, 2013

That is a great story. Carl Zimmer is one of the better science writers.
posted by grouse at 3:37 PM on January 26, 2013

Pedant's note: National Institute of Health's Clinical Center

A lot of people get this wrong. It's the National Institutes of Health. There are many.

Oh, and great post.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:40 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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