Liam Shaw And Nicola C. Sugden report:
The Democratic Republic of Congo is battling an Ebola outbreak. As is the case with any disease caused by pathogenic viruses – like Zika or influenza – Ebola spreads dangerously and unpredictably. This makes tracking the movement of viruses around the world a major challenge.
Researchers have increasingly turned to DNA sequencing to help identify and track these sorts of diseases. They use portable DNA sequencers, which are the size of a USB and can be easily carried for use in the field. One such sequencer, the MinION from Oxford Nanopore Technologies was used during the 2016 Zika virus epidemic in Brazil. It’s also being used to track the DRC’s Ebola outbreak.
Metagenomic data – the kind that could be collected on a sequencer such as MinION or others such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s new platform IDSeq – contains an enormous amount of information about who we are and how we live. In combination with other widely available information someone could potentially use that data to work out where you live, or with whom you have a close relationship.
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