• By Dana Sparks

Science Saturday: Sleuthing out the fingerprint of disease

May 25, 2019

In the winter of 2014, staff of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit had a serious problem. Researchers at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Saint Marys Campus noted a rise in the number of resistant bacteria in the unit. The culprit was methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as MRSA. Such incidents have become increasingly common in recent years — even at institutions with excellent infection control programs. But Mayo’s situation was unique. It characterized the outbreak using DNA identification technology, detecting the genomic identity of a pathogen in most of the babies before they showed any signs of infection. Just as a detective dusts a crime scene for fingerprints, Mayo researchers had canvassed the ICU for traces of MRSA. Once they detected the dangerous bacteria, they captured genomic fingerprints to identify the exact forms that were causing the outbreak. The researchers then used that information to stem the spread of the outbreak and treat the affected babies.

This high-tech sleuthing, led by Robin Patel, M.D., is changing the way clinicians track the spread of bacteria. The technologies she and her team have developed also are being used to solve other medical mysteries by providing diagnoses to patients grappling with previously undiagnosable infections. Read the rest of the article on Discovery's Edge. _________________________________________________

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