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Watching Infections Spread From Space

April 28, 2017

As Swine Flue continues to spread across the globe, scientists are working to stay one step ahead of it. Hoping to predict where it might turn up next, researchers are looking to the sky.

If there is one thing more frightening to scientists than the stubborn, silent bacteria that can threaten the lives of thousands, it's how easily those germs can get around. It is estimated 2 percent of the world's population has moved to a new country in the last few years.*

"That's over 200 million people that have moved to a new location. So that means that these infections we're talking about are global." says Larry Schlesinger, PhD of the Ohio State University Medical Center.

And these infections are serious. So serious, in fact, that Dr. Schlesinger started and continues to run a center dedicated solely to finding and fighting them.

From their laboratories at the Ohio State University Medical Center, over fifty scientists work on treatments for the next major outbreak - and while they never know if it will be tuberculosis, malaria or swine flu, they will know where to find it.

Using remarkable computer programs, another group of scientists at Ohio State can map cases overnight - and even zoom in to street level to tell them who is infected - a tool which was used to track avian flu in 2007.

"I could tell you where it came from in the world and what mutations are specific to that lineage such that it can be diagnosed rapidly," says Dan Janies, PhD of Ohio State University.

But diagnosing the disease is only half the battle - we also have to kill what causes it. The problem is that many infectious diseases have evolved and are now resistant to our drugs - which is why this team is constantly looking for new therapies.

"You really don't eradicate infectious diseases, you just tame them. And they keep re-emerging. And if we're not smart, they'll win the battle, not humans," says Dr. Schlesinger.

*United Nations. 2006. International migration and development, Report of the Secretary General (A/60/871). New York: United Nations. Retrieved April 2009 from here.

Ohio State University Medical Center See our Map Of H1N1 Outbreaks See our Mexico Swine Flu Blog