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Mayo Clinic laboratory workers have a new tool to perform high tech genetic sleuthing for the source of stubborn, sometimes life-threatening bacteria. Bacterial whole genome sequencing can trace individual isolates of bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, also known as Staph aureus, to determine if an outbreak is occurring. This common bacterium that has plagued health care facilities, nursing homes, neonatal intensive care units and sports teams can lead to serious infections and can be resistant to some available antibiotics.
“If we have two or more people infected with the same type of bacterium, the question sometimes arises as to whether they got the organisms from one another or a shared source. The answer to this question can shape an approach to limit further spread,” says Robin Patel, M.D., a clinical microbiologist with Mayo Clinic Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. “Or, a patient might have a bacterial infection and later a second infection with the same type of bacterium. Whole genome sequencing can determine whether the patient picked up a new ‘version’ of the bacterium or if the old one never went away. This can matter for management of that patient.”
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