Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Sequencing Haiti's Cholera Epidemic

Rapid DNA sequencing identifies the origins of the cholera outbreak.

  • December 10, 2010

According to the most detailed genetic analysis yet of the strain of cholera bacteria infecting people in Haiti, the pathogen most likely originated in South Asia rather than the Caribbean or Latin America. While scientists still don’t know exactly how the bacteria made its way to Haiti, the findings suggest it must have been introduced by human activity. They also lend new urgency to public health efforts; the South Asian strain is both more virulent and more resistant to antibiotic drugs than those currently circulating in Latin America. Since the outbreak began in October, 93,000 people have become sick and more than 2,000 have died.

Eric Schadt and collaborators at Pacific Biosciences, a sequencing company that has developed a novel method for rapidly reading single molecules of DNA, sequenced and analyzed the microbes’ DNA in just two days. The ability to quickly analyze pathogens is essential if it is to aid public health responses.

According to a release from Pacific Biosciences, which raised $200 million in an initial public offering last month, researchers sequenced five different cholera strains sent from Harvard Medical School: two samples from the current Haiti outbreak, two samples from South Asia (Bangladeshi isolates from 1971 and 2008), and one sample from Latin America (a 1991 Peruvian isolate). The team then compared this high resolution whole genome sequence information to DNA sequence information available in public databases for 23 diverse strains of V. cholerae. The research was published online this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to a commentary in the NEJM,

The implications of the appearance of this strain are worrisome: as compared with many cholera strains, it is associated with increased virulence, enhanced ability to survive in the environment and in a human host, and increased antibiotic resistance. These factors have substantial epidemiologic ramifications for the entire region and implications for optimal public health approaches to arresting the epidemic’s spread.

Couldn't make it to EmTech Next to meet experts in AI, Robotics and the Economy?

Go behind the scenes and check out our video
More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.