26. Clusters, Not Isolation

Martin Wiedmann, Food Science, and research colleagues concluded that nearly one-third of the 2,500 U.S. cases of listeriosis annually might occur in geographic clusters at the same time. The researchers matched strains of the bacterium, using DNA fingerprint methods. They showed connections between cases of listeriosis in New York State by examining bacterial samples from victims obtained from the New York State Department of Health between 1996 and 2000. It was previously believed that the majority of these cases occurred in isolation. The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and waste and can contaminate vegetables and infect animals. Looking for clusters of cases, Wiedmann believes, can stop an outbreak after a few cases are identified and save people who otherwise might die during the outbreak. This food-borne bacterial disease kills one of every five of its victims.

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