Google Bacterium is on its way

Following the lead of mash-up artist Girl Talk, the Centre for Molecular Epidemiology led by Professor Frank Møller Aarestrup at Technical University of Denmark (DTU), is planning on creating a infectious disease surveillance tool by combining elements of google maps/pulsenet.  The new tool, nicknamed Google Bacterium, could allow laboratories across the globe to see outbreaks of foodborne illness in almost real-time (as soon as PFGE maps or sequences are uploaded).

The centre will develop software and hardware solutions which can handle these large volumes of data, analyse DNA sequences and swiftly return clinically, biologically and epidemiologically relevant information on bacteria species, strains, antimicrobial resistance and treatment options as an open source solution.

The plan is to start with salmonella, staphylococci and coli bacteria – with the potential for expanding the collaboration to also include viruses, parasites and other bacteria. In the long term, the system will also be able to include the identification of ‘good’ bacteria for industrial uses.

The centre will also develop an Internet platform which will show all the data on a world map to visualise the global spread of bacteria. It will be a bit like a Google Bacterium which will be accessible to everyone on the Internet.

Sounds awesome, mash it up, I’d love to be able to get email alerts about clusters of illnesses in certain geographic areas.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.