These bright patches might look cheerful but the organisms they depict are potentially deadly. Each coloured cluster represents a different type of bacterium collected in the intensive care unit (ICU) at a hospital in Seattle, Washington, over the course of a year. By reading the entire DNA sequence of each bacterial sample, researchers can accurately compare new bugs as they find them, tracking how the populations in the ward change and evolve over time. Black spots represent germs that have previously been seen, while white spots are completely new types. Looking closer, many patients in the ICU turn out to harbour several different groups of unrelated bacteria. This is the first time that hospital bugs have been tracked in this way over such a long period of time, providing a vital insight into the infections affecting some of the most vulnerable patients and pointing towards potential opportunities to prevent them.
Written by Kat Arney
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