Genomic sequencing can help determine end of a TB outbreak

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By reading the genetic instructions of tuberculosis-causing pathogens, monitoring pathogenic mutation and using that data to establish a tree of transmission, researchers were able to determine when a TB outbreak that began in 2008 had ended, according to a study published in Microbial Genomics.

"Declaring the end of a TB outbreak is a difficult thing to do," said Jennifer Gardy, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Population and Public Health of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and the study's senior author. "Because the bacterium that causes TB can lie dormant in someone's lung for months or even years before it causes disease, we had no way of knowing whether a TB case we have just diagnosed was a recent infection — suggesting the outbreak is still going on — or whether the person was infected years ago."

Researchers were able to determine that the 2008 outbreak that impacted the Kelwona-area in British Columbia came to an end in 2015. This new genomic method of outbreak investigation could prove useful to public health officials in the future. Outbreak responses require a wealth of communal effort and resource allocation, so knowing when to step down outbreak combating efforts could be a useful tool.

"Genomics has been used to monitor infectious disease outbreaks before, but this is the first time it's ever been possible to declare a complicated outbreak of TB over," said Dr. Gardy. "It really opens up new doors in the world of TB control."

More articles on infection control: 
Botulism outbreak in prison sparks CDC investigation 
Experimental antibiotic successfully treats MRSA infection, study finds 
16 confirmed cases: Arizona measles outbreak continues

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