10 Mar 2011


From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 10 March 2011

Anne Midwinter, Nigel French, Anthony Pita and campylobacter on a plate

Anne Midwinter, Nigel French, and Anthony Pita, and a plate with campylobacter growing on it.

Zoonoses are human diseases that come from animals. Determining the source of these diseases and how they spread is important for preventing outbreaks.

At the Molecular Epidemiology and Public Health Laboratory at Massey University in Palmerston North, Nigel French and his team are identifying and tracing zoonoses. He takes Ruth Beran on a tour of the lab to meet Anne Midwinter, Will Clayton and Anthony Pita, and to see how human and animal samples are analysed for bacteria (such as Campylobacter, Leptospira, E-coli, Salmonella) and protozoa (such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia). Using techniques ranging from microbiology (culturing and isolation) to analysing DNA through polymerase chain reaction and whole genome sequencing, bugs are extracted, strain types identified, and models used to determine potential sources. Factors such as seasonality, and location all need to be factored in, and if a source is found, the information is fed back to the relevant authorities and changes made to prevent human illness.