Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Understanding how infectious diseases spread depends on unlocking secrets held in existing data

02.01.2009
Often experiments are needed to make scientific progress, but sometimes the answers lie in data already collected, requiring new analysis tools to unlock the secrets.

This applies to infectious disease transmission, main topic of a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which called for development of new mathematical and statistical tools capable of probing deeper into existing databases relating to human contact and pathogens.

"One of the most exciting conclusions we came to was the realization that vast amounts of information were already available in various data banks," said Mirjam Kretzschmar, convenor of the ESF workshop, from the Medical Centre at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

These databanks held wide ranging information relating to the contact networks of people with various diseases, identifying the pattern of transmission, and also the genotype (total genetic sequence) of the associated pathogens, which could be bacteria or viruses, and potentially in future protozoa or micro fungi. The ESF workshop highlighted the great challenge involved in bringing all this data together, and drawing the correct conclusions from it. "It is clear now that methods are still lacking to unlock the knowledge that is immersed in these data," said Kretzschmar. "In particular we need to bridge different disciplines to meet this challenge of handling increasingly large amounts of systematically collected genetic sequence data."

The point here is that particular pathogens such as the influenza virus as identified by their genotype can have different transmission patterns - some might spread faster, and some might require closer contact between people to spread. Therefore correlating details of the unfolding contacts networks between sufferers, as a disease spreads, with the possibly evolving genotype of the pathogen involved can yield valuable insights into the molecular factors relating to transmission. Similarly the disease may become more or less severe over time, or it may affect some types of people worse than others. These factors can also be analysed, helping perhaps to identify what makes a pathogen dangerous and then hopefully predict in advance how an infection may develop and spread. This can lead to appropriate strategies to combat a disease, such as development of a vaccine or public health recommendations, for example that certain high individuals stay at home where possible.

"Research projects have shown that genotyping of pathogens can lead to insight into how risk networks are connected with each other and whether an outbreak consists of many small local outbreaks or whether we are dealing with a supra-national outbreak that requires different intervention strategies," said Kretzschmar. For example the outbreak of LGV (Lymphogranuloma venereum) among gay men in Europe during 2005 occurred in clusters and analysis showed that clusters from geographically distant cities were connected with each other. Also, the analysis of genotypes showed that the outbreak was connected to earlier cases observed in San Francisco and had been going on for a long time already. This helped coordinate intervention activities among European countries.

The conference also heard how genotyping was helping identify emerging pathogens more quickly than previously, and their likely patterns of transmission. For example genotyping enabled the insect-born virus Chikungunya and its transmission routes to be rapidly identified during a recent outbreak in Italy.

Such information can be correlated with contact tracing networks, which identify the transmission chains taken by an infection. "Two types of contact tracing were discussed," said Kretzschmar. "One was the traditional way of asking infected persons who their contacts and possible sources of infection were, and the other was tracing clusters of persons who have similar characteristics."

The latter type of contact network could be identified by taking people with similar genotypes, and also by considering people with similar types of risk behaviour that puts them at risk - gay men already with specific types of high risk behaviour being an example for LGV. "It shows that molecular typing can help uncover risk networks, especially if there is epidemiological information available that allows us to localize these networks and identify persons who are at risk but not yet infected."

The ESF workshop proved invaluable in identifying the types of data that could increase understanding of how infectious disease spreads and develops in populations, and the statistical and mathematical tools that could perform the required analysis.

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Individual Receptors Caught at Work
19.10.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction
19.10.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>