Tags: superspreaders | bacteria | virus | transmit | infections | Typhoid Mary

'Superspreaders' Transmit 80 Percent of Disease

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 02:20 PM


Have you ever heard the term Typhoid Mary? Mary was a 19th century cook who infected dozens of people with typhoid fever without ever becoming ill. According to scientists, about 20 percent of the population, like Mary, spread diseases easily sometimes without become ill themselves.

Mary's case isn't unique. In fact "superspreaders" transmit about 80 percent of viral and bacterial infections, according to scientists. They have observed the phenomenon before, most recently during the 2003 and 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak.

Now, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, scientists are trying to figure out why some people are much more likely to spread disease. Of course, some pathogens are more virulent than others and spread more easily, but recent research indicates that the body's immune system may also play a role, both in protecting against infections and also in spreading disease to others.

"This is a phenomenon that’s been observed but nobody really fully understands it," Denise Monack, an associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department at Stanford University, told the Wall Street Journal.

Scientists are even unclear as to the definition of a superspreader. Is it someone who is sick with the disease themselves and is a "supershedder" — a person who emits larger amounts of bacteria or viruses? Or someone who can spread the disease but they themselves remain immune from it?

Co-infection may also be a factor. Some studies have found that people who were infected with a bacteria were much more likely to spread it (30 to 40 times more likely) if they were infected with a simple virus at the same time, such as the common cold.

"It was suggested that decreased immunity could increase the viral load in certain individuals, and this could make them superspreaders," Richard A. Stein, a research scientist at NYU School of Medicine’s department of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, told the Wall Street Journal.

To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, go here.

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Have you ever heard the term Typhoid Mary? Mary was a 19th century cook who infected dozens of people with typhoid fever without ever becoming ill. According to scientists, about 20 percent of the population, like Mary, spread diseases easily sometimes without become ill...
superspreaders, bacteria, virus, transmit, infections, Typhoid Mary
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2014-20-16
Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 02:20 PM
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