genomics, epidemiology, and the complexity of help

Here’s an interesting quote from a recent paper on using genomics in the study of the spread of disease. It may be an example of the complexity of dealing with disasters in non-industrialised nations; basically, the world is broken and stuff is complicated. I just found it striking; a really sad irony (if the purported origin of the disease is correct).

Global datasets can also be used to inform local epidemiology. Following an outbreak of disease, investigators frequently wish to know where it originated. Comparisons of outbreak genomes with others that have already been sequenced can shed light on this, but such comparisons require a larger sample so that the outbreak can be placed in context. Following the cholera epidemic that arose in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake [27], rumours suggested that peacekeepers from Nepal, a region of endemic cholera transmission, travelling as part of the United Nations relief operation could have inadvertently introduced the outbreak strain. Genome sequencing confirmed a close relationship between the Haiti outbreak strain and recent V. cholerae isolates from Nepal, consistent with this hypothesis. It should be noted that existing samples of diversity are not such that we can definitively link the outbreak to Nepal through sequence data alone—although strong evidence supports a South Asian origin, closely related genomes have also been sampled from Cameroon. However, the combination of traditional and genomic epidemiology suggests a probable Nepalese origin.

Croucher et al. Bacterial genomes in epidemiology–present and future. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 2013. p. 368


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