Superbug 'sleuthing' finds secret outbreaks

From BBC - October 25, 2017

A feat of "genomic sleuthing" has uncovered 173 secret outbreaks of the superbug MRSA, a study shows.

They were found in the east of England over the course of just one year, according to the details published in Science Translational Medicine.

The researchers say their approach could transform the way we tackle MRSA and other superbugs.

Detecting outbreaks that are happening under our noses should cut the number of people infected.

Detective work

Hospitals in the UK have become very good at catching outbreaks of MRSA, especially when they happen in the same place at the same time - such as in one hospital ward.

But MRSA also spreads outside of hospitals, in people's homes, in care homes; and patients and staff also move around from place to place.

Doctors will see the individual cases, but cannot always spot the bigger picture and catch the outbreak.

Prof Sharon Peacock, one of the researchers, told the BBC: "Patients move around wards very quickly and you do not always spot the links Sherlock Holmes might detect, but the genomics does it for you."

The team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute sequenced the genetic code of every single MRSA sample that came through three hospitals and 75 GP surgeries.

They then pieced together the clues in a feat of genetic genealogy.

By looking at the genetic code, the researchers could work out which samples were closely related and therefore part of the same outbreak.



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