Sewers: New Source for Tracking Infectious Diseases?
the MPR take:
Raw sewage may not be the first place we think of as a source for tracking the spread of infectious diseases, but researchers are looking at ways to sequence DNA in sewers to detect pathogens and pinpoint them to specific locations. Previous attempts at gene sequencing were limited due to the expensive, heavy equipment necessary and difficulties in transporting sewage to labs. A new DNA sequencer produced by Oxford Nanopore that is the size of a USB thumb drive, could remove these barriers with DNA analysis conducted on the spot in sewers. Weill Cornell Medical College professor Christopher Mason is creating a “Pathomap” with data collected from surface swab samples from all across New York City. If the pathogens can be detected, public health officials could be alerted and disease outbreak surveillance and prevention strategies implemented.
In 2010 geneticist Eric Schadt, then the chief scientific officer at DNA sequencer maker Pacific Biosciences, had a brainstorm as to how to update Snow's breakthrough for the modern age. The germs that infect us–everything from influenza to measles to bubonic plague–wind up in our waste. Why not look for them by using DNA technology to sequence raw sewage.
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