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TGen and DTU researchers track source of Haitian cholera outbreak
Date:8/23/2011

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. Aug. 23, 2011 Employing technology that reads the entire DNA code, researchers led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have pinpointed the source of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that killed more than 6,000 people and sickened 300,000.

Using whole genome sequencing, which spells out the billions of chemical bases in DNA, TGen and DTU provided the strongest evidence yet that peacekeepers from Nepal, where cholera is widespread, brought the disease to Haiti, which already was reeling from a devastating earthquake in January 2010 that killed more than 300,000.

In a study titled "Population genetics of Vibrio Cholerae from Nepal: An identical clone in Nepal and the Haitian outbreak," researchers confirm the source of the cholera, and suggest how to prevent future outbreaks when international aid is rushed to disaster areas.

The study appears Tuesday August 23rd in mBio, a new online-only, open-access journal published by the American Society of Microbiology in partnership with the American Academy of Microbiology.

"The great similarity of Haitian cholera with Nepalese cholera is based upon the highest resolution DNA methods available, and point to a probable source of this devastating disease outbreak," said Dr. Paul Keim, Director of the TGen Pathogen Genomics Division and senior molecular biologist on the study. Dr. Keim assisted the FBI in tracking down the source of the 2001 anthrax letters case, which killed five people. He said similar genetic tracking techniques were used in investigating the Haitian cholera outbreak.

According to Dr. Keim, methods pioneered during the anthrax letter forensic investigation and today's greatly diminished costs for whole genome sequencing make it possible to apply this powerful technology to new and critical public health challenges. Dr. Keim is a Regents Professor at Northern Arizona University (NAU
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Contact: Steve Yozwiak
syozwiak@tgen.org
602-343-8704
The Translational Genomics Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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