Crowdsourcing killer outbreaks





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Published on Feb 18, 2013

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In May 2011 a new strain of E.coli bacteria claimed 50 lives and struck 4000 more people as it spread around Europe from Germany.

The worst outbreak of its kind on record, the event highlighted a new form of scientific cooperation -- crowdsourcing -- in which a genetic sequence of the bacteria was released into the public domain allowing all scientists to decode its DNA to work out how a usually harmless microbe turned into an efficient killer.

Now a new crowdsourcing effort is underway to tackle the ash dieback disease that threatens Britain's 80M ash trees. Some scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council tackling the new ash tree scourge were involved in the original E.coli outbreak, and are revisiting what was learned and what more could be done in the future -- for outbreaks of human disease as well as plant pathogens that threaten rural and agricultural communities.

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