Infectious disease outbreaks have significant impacts on human health, agri-food production, animal health and the economy. Ineffective public health responses can result in outbreaks that spread diseases like the Zika virus and food-borne illnesses, with enormous impacts on health and high economic costs. DNA sequencing provides the complete “fingerprint” of a microbe, enabling an unprecedented tracing of how infectious diseases spread. When outbreaks become global, however (think SARS, or microbes resistant to antimicrobials) data needs to be shared across public health organizations securely and efficiently. Unfortunately, data is often held in institution-specific formats, making it difficult, time consuming and costly to do so.
Drs. William Hsiao (UBC), Andrew G. McArthur (McMaster University) and Fiona Brinkman (Simon Fraser University) will improve data integration and sharing of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance information across public health agencies, with the Genomic Epidemiology Application Ontology (GenOpiO). The platform will enable public health workers to share outbreak-related information faster and to perform more powerful analyses, helping to reduce the negative health and economic impact of disease outbreaks.