I have a story tonight at CIDRAP about a paper published this evening in the journal Science. To respect fair use and make sure my colleagues get clicks, I just quote the story here — but then I want to talk about why I think it’s such an important study.
A multi-national team of researchers has applied a new genomic tool to a 50-year-old bacterial foe, using minute mutations to track the spread of drug-resistant staph both across continents and within a single hospital.
On a global scale, their sleuthing tracked the movement of one clone of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) back and forth across the planet, pinpointing when individual cases transported infections across national borders to spark new outbreaks. Separately, their method demonstrated that what appeared to be a hospital epidemic of MRSA was not a single outbreak, but rather a mixed event of patient-to-patient transmission of one strain that was accompanied by multiple importations from outside the hospital of similar but unrelated strains. …
In a briefing yesterday for the press, the authors emphasized the latter finding, pointing out that the traditional infection control measures usually applied to hospital outbreaks would not curb the spread of infections that were carried in undetected from outside. Their method, they said, provides a proof of concept for using cutting-edge genomics to uncover the precise pathways by which MRSA spreads within hospitals—not only tracing its path from patient to patient, but also identifying the bug in patients whose undetected bacterial carriage could spark outbreaks but have not yet.