UT researchers investigate ways to prevent large-scale bacterial outbreaks

E. coli is one of the most common pathogens responsible for causing hospital-acquired infections. Outbreaks of E. coli can happen rapidly, and in those cases knowledge about a particular strain, such as its point of origin, is limited. Now researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio are working to identify minute details in the genomes of bacterial strains in the hopes of determining the precise path bacteria take to arrive at the point of infection during an outbreak and better combat them before they spread.

"No detail is too small," Mark Eppinger, PhD, said in a statement. "We can use these differences to trace the outbreak back to its contaminated source by looking to see if these traits existed in other reported outbreaks of the same pathogen."

The UTSA-developed method is a form of whole-genome sequencing that can identify characteristics unique to individual outbreaks. Identifying those details can help trace bacteria back to a country or region, if not a precise location in some instances. Ferreting out those details can also help clinicians predict how deadly an outbreak will be and which distinct symptoms it might present with, according to Dr. Eppinger.

The research is published in Frontiers in Microbiology.

More articles on outbreaks:

CDC releases comprehensive history of Ebola response: 5 things to know 
Yellow fever outbreak: Low vaccine supply forces WHO to reduce dosage 
After measles outbreak, Arizona health officials urge detention facility workers to get vaccinated 

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