A new genetic tool maps how deadly viruses spread around the world in real time

Source:  https://qz.com/920836/a-new-genetic-tool-maps-how-deadly-viruses-spread-around-the-world-in-real-time/

Summary:  Advances are continually being made to better deal with epidemics, such as Ebola and Zika, on a global scale. Researchers, Richard Neher and Trevor Bradford, developed a genetic tool that maps how viruses spread in real time. They termed their invention NextStrain. Although it can’t yet predict the outbreak of a virus, this tool is particularly useful in tracking the spread of a disease once it has begun its invasion.

Connections: With our recent lecture regarding viruses, I found this to be a perfect article to highlight the advances being made in the field of virology to monitor and potentially limit global epidemics.

Critical Analysis:  What was interesting to me about this article was that this project was founded during the peak of the Ebola epidemic. This makes me wonder how useful this form of technology would have been prior to the outbreak. Although this seems like it could be groundbreaking for the field of virology, I feel that there could potentially be issues with this genetic tool. One limitation to this technology is getting more scientists to support it and use it. Many are skeptical to using it because many scientific journals require that data not be shared with society until publication. Also, the Open Science Prize is currently funding this project. Once funds run out, they’re unsure if any public-health agency will take it over and keep it running it.

Questions:  Based on what these two researchers have been able to do with targeting the spread of viruses, is there any current research being performed that attempts to determine which mutation will give the virus the  potential to initiate  an epidemic?

2 Comments for “A new genetic tool maps how deadly viruses spread around the world in real time”

Bailey Carter


This is a very interesting article. I did not know that viruses mutated that fast; and that they are so dangerous because of it. On the fly they mutate themselves, in the process creating new strains all of the time that could be resistant to potential cures.



I see what you are saying about this new tool. I think it is interesting how these two researchers are incorporating the genetic aspect to track various viruses, which is definitely helpful for identifying new strains that emerge. Also, I was getting the idea that because this tool is so new, other scientists and public health agencies are leery of it since the tool has not yet shown how beneficial it can be. In regards to your question, I think that there is research going on to study the mutations of viruses to get one step ahead of any potential epidemics. Looking at various articles from some journals from NCBI, a lot of this research is focused on the diseases that have recently caused epidemics or are well-known because they occur so frequently.