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Molecular epidemiology 

Molecular epidemiology
Chapter:
Molecular epidemiology
Author(s):

Nigel M. Field

, Duncan MacCannell

, and Helen R. Stagg

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198719830.003.0010
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date: 22 February 2020

Infectious disease molecular epidemiology uses molecular typing methods to study the distribution, dynamics, and determinants of infections in human populations. Pathogens with similar molecular typing characteristics are likely to be related, and the degree of similarity can be used to infer relatedness between strains. The ‘omics’ techniques (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics) underpin molecular epidemiology. Whole-genome sequencing and other laboratory technologies are transforming public health microbiology, but their application presents important challenges, including managing the sheer volume of data generated. Other important considerations are the correct choice of biological marker, molecular clock, and the possibility that multiple-strain infections might complicate interpretation. It seems likely that molecular epidemiology will increasingly be applied to real-world infectious disease-related public health problems and practice, and this will require multidisciplinary teams of public health practitioners, bioinformaticians, statisticians, epidemiologists, and microbiologists to work together to harness these data, while maintaining a critical eye to their interpretation.

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