Friday 1 October 2010

Geographical differences in transmission revealed by cryptic population structure

Two papers that I co-authored with colleagues at Lancaster and Massey Universities appear this month in the October 2010 issue of Epidemiology & Infection. The common theme is that cryptic differences in the population structure of the enteric pathogen Campylobacter jejuni, revealed by my method for attributing cases to source populations, suggest subtle differences in transmission between rural and urban districts.
The method, implemented in the software iSource (available on my website), allows strains of campylobacter to be characterized as poultry- or cattle-associated based on their genetic profiles. Interestingly, when the relative incidence of poultry- and cattle-associated strains is plotted on a map, there is a significantly higher occurrence of poultry-related disease in urban areas and cattle-related disease in rural areas. Both studies – one in Lancashire led by Edith Gabriel and one in New Zealand led by Petra Mullner – draw the same conclusion. These findings imply that there are subtle differences in transmission in rural and urban areas. Whether they represent geographical differences in the profile of food pathogens, environmental exposure, resistance to infection or other risk factors is not understood.

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