By bringing their disparate specialties of epidemiology and genomics together, Tara Palmore and Julie Segre were able to trace an outbreak at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in real time, the Washington Post writes. Palmore and Segre, it adds, are finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal in the Science and Environment category. (They are up against the Mars Rover folks.)
"The number of people with all kinds of expertise they were able to pull together — it's laudable," Alexander Kallen, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tells the Post. "They took a very aggressive stance to control the outbreak." Kallen consulted on the case.
Palmore, Segre, and their teams used both epidemiological tools and next-gen sequencing to track a lethal Klebsiella pneumoniae outbreak. During the outbreak, 18 patients became sick and seven deaths were attributed to the outbreak. As they have reported in Science Translational Medicine, Palmore, Segre, and their teams traced how the bug was transmitted from patient to patient, uncovered how it had outmaneuvered isolation and sterilization controls, and identified mutations linked to drug resistance.
"Segre and Palmore continue to collaborate, sequencing data from other hospital-acquired bugs," the Post adds. "They say neither of them could have solved the Klebsiella puzzle alone."