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Life sciences/Genetics/Microbial genetics/Bacterial genetics/Bacterial genomes

Whole-genome sequencing of drug-resistant bacteria during a hospital outbreak could help infection control efforts, reports a new study in the 22 August issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The report details the steps taken after a 2011 outbreak of Klebsiella pneumoniae at a clinical center located at the National Institutes of Health. Six of the 18 patients infected during the outbreak died.

“Synthetic biology”—the process of fundamentally altering life or creating new life forms—offers “mind-boggling” possible benefits to humanity, but they must be weighed against bioterrorism and others risks that remain largely unknown and difficult to define, bioethicist Thomas H. Murray said at AAAS.

“If I didn’t think the potential benefits… were massive, there would be no point in having this conversation,” said Murray, president and chief executive officer of the Hastings Center. “We should just not do it.”