Public Health Genomics, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionUntil recently, only the simplest genomes were available to public health scientists and even those were generally known only by their fingerprints. Now, genomic sequencing technology has brought the world in reach: whole genome sequences of pathogens, to study their biology and epidemiology; animals, plants, and environmental microbes, to study their evolution and ecology through meta-genomics and microbiome analysis; and humans, to study their susceptibility, resilience, potential to transmit infection, and response to interventions. It’s a genomic world.
The proposed Advanced Molecular Detection initiative aims to help CDC apply molecular sequencing and bioinformatics techniques to solving outbreaks and controlling infectious diseases. This approach has been called “genomic epidemiology”—using pathogen genome sequences to detect emerging diseases, assess their potential virulence and resistance to antibiotics, and monitor their spread in populations. The focus is on pathogen genomes, applying advances in molecular and bioinformatics methods first developed for human genome research.*
Each week, OPHG’s Genomics & Health Impact Update includes a list of articles on genomics published by CDC scientists. These articles are selected from the latest edition of Science Clips, an online bibliographic digest that CDC shares weekly with the public health community and the public. What genomic studies are CDC public health scientists doing—and which genomes are they writing about? We went to the archives to find out.
In 2012, Science Clips listed 178 articles on genomics with one or more CDC authors. Of these, 111 (62%) concerned bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasite genomes; 61 (34%) concerned the human genome; and 6 (3%) concerned genomes of other animal species (Figure).
Genomes at CDC: Man, Mouse, and Microbe—it’s a Genomic World