New central database will help fight deadly microorganisms

The NIH has funded the development of a database that will give “infectious disease researchers a single Web-based entry point to all relevant organism-related data necessary for their advanced research. The genomes (genetic maps) of hundreds and eventually thousands of microorganisms will be available for integrated analysis.”

The University of Chicago and Argonne Laboratories are collaborating to create this tremendous resource for developing more effective vaccines and methods of diagnosing and treating infections–old ones and as-yet-unheard-of ones. Initially, work will focus on bacteria that cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal illnesses (several types), listeriasis (infection that affects newborns and elderly with weakened immune systems), cholera, staph and strep infections like meningitis and pneumonia, and strep infections like toxic shock, scarlet fever and others.

It would be fascinating to know how they chose which diseases to start combatting first. As for diarrhea, estimates are that diarrhea and its complications kill from 1.5 to 5.1 million children around the world under the age of five, and is a huge risk factor for those over 70.

That’s a good reason to start right there.