Thursday 4 January 2018

Tracking how deadly 'superbugs' travel could slow their spread

Using data from a 2008 outbreak of one of the most-feared "superbugs," and modern genetic sequencing techniques, a team has successfully modeled, and predicted, the way the organism spread between and within dozens of healthcare facilities.

The approach can tell if the bug is spreading within a hospital, nursing home or long-term acute care hospital -- or if a new patient transferred from another facility has brought it there.

In other words, if fighting superbugs is like a horror movie, the approach can tell if the call is coming from inside the house, or if the killer is lurking outside and about to barge through the door.

And just like in a horror movie, getting an answer quickly can guide what kinds of barricades and weapons health professionals should use against the villain.

The approach, published in Science Translational Medicine , combines current epidemiological approaches with whole-genome sequencing -- spelling out the entire DNA sequence of bacteria from each infected patient.

This makes it possible to use the tiny changes in superbug DNA -- the kind of mutations that happen naturally over time -- to track their spread within and between healthcare facilities.


Evan S. Snitkin, Sarah Won, Ali Pirani, Zena Lapp, Robert A. Weinstein, Karen Lolans, Mary K. Hayden. Integrated genomic and interfacility patient-transfer data reveal the transmission pathways of multidrug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae in a regional outbreakScience Translational Medicine, 2017; 9 (417): eaan0093 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan0093

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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