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Google Earth typhoid maps reveal secrets of disease outbreaks
Date:10/16/2011

lity to understand the transmission of these diseases has been significantly hampered. Now, advances in technology have allowed us for the first time to create accurate geographical and genetic maps of the spread of typhoid and trace it back to its sources."

To capture the information, health workers would visit a patient's home and use GPS to capture the exact location. They would also take a blood sample from the hospitalised patient to isolate the organism and to allow analysis of the typhoid strain's genotype its genetic make-up. This genotyping used sequencing technology able to identify single changes in the 'letters' of DNA the A, C, T and Gs that make up the code.

The researchers found extensive clustering of typhoid infections in particular locations. Yet, perhaps counter-intuitively for a disease that spreads amongst humans, this clustering was unrelated to the density of the local population. In fact, the study showed that people living near to water spouts, for whom these provide their main source of water, and people living at a lower elevation are at substantially greatest risk of contracting the disease.

Typhoid incidence is likely to be associated with faecal contamination of ground water during the monsoon. As S. paratyphi A (a strain of S. paratyphi found in Nepal) appeared to spread downstream from the main focal point, this would put people living in areas with low elevation at higher risk. These two variables, elevation and water spout proximity, are likely to be interconnected, as the water spouts are more common in low lying areas.

The research has also shed light on the role of asymptomatic carriers of the disease in the spread of typhoid. As these carriers do not show symptoms, they are likely to be unaware of their infection and can unwittingly spread the disease. The most famous of such cases was a cook in New York in the early twentieth century, nicknamed 'Typhoid Mary', who is bel
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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert  

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