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DNA to Track Superbug Outbreaks

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Scientists have begun a project to discover how to use DNA to identify the source and track the spread of hospital superbugs.

The genetic fingerprints of germs are to be mapped to combat hospital superbugs and help doctors decide what must be done to stop the outbreak. The database will help doctors determine which patients with MRSA and Clostridium difficile have picked up bacteria and therefore control the spread of infection. The germ’s DNA will be sequenced from an MRSA-affected patient and compared with samples in the database to determine whether the infection was present when the patient was admitted to hospital or whether it was acquired on the ward.

Data from individual nurses or doctors will be used to discover whether they are spreading disease through poor hygiene, by matching DNA from patients’ germs to samples from the skin or clothing of staff.

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