Alberni TB outbreak linked to crack cocaine use

The TB outbreak in Port Alberni is linked to the arrival of crack cocaine in the city. Individuals referred to as "super spreaders" proliferated its rapid spread.

Crack cocaine use is linked to the tuberculosis outbreak in Port Alberni,  a Simon Fraser news release is reporting.

According to the release, researchers at SFU are the first to combine bacterial gene analysis with social networking surveys to track down the origins of a TB outbreak in a B.C. community.

Although the name of the community isn’t named other media are reporting that it is Port Alberni.

“Thanks to this combination of social-network surveys and genomics, we were able for the first time to link a TB outbreak with an increase in crack cocaine use within a community,” said SFU microbiology professor Fiona Brinkman.

The researchers also identified several infected individuals who they referred to as “super spreaders” – or those who spread the disease to many others.

The release is part of a broader body of study findings that are being released in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, Feb. 24.

According to the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the first case of a person infected with TB in Port Alberni was in April 2006.

The outbreak was first reported by the News in December 2006 when 15 cases of TB were diagnosed.

In 2007 the number of infected grew to 33, and to 40 in 2008.

But in 2009 the outbreak appeared to peak at 45 cases.

In December 2009, VIHA reported that since May 2006 more than 3,000 individuals in the Port Alberni area had been screened for TB.

No new cases were reported after 2009 but contact tracing continued as a precaution.

According to the release, a combined BC Centre For Disease Control and SFU research team conducted the study.

The team took samples from 36 patients infected with TB in Port Alberni in an effort to decipher the genetic codes of the TB bacteria genes.

They also tested bacteria from a former TB outbreak in the area to see if it had mutated.

Conventional DNA testing showed the bacteria all had the same gene type.

But full genome testing revealed a hidden layer of genetic diversity that distinguished the different samples from each other.

Researchers subsequently produced a “family tree” of the two TB strains, showing which samples were related.

By combining that information with the social network surveys the BCCDC had collected from infected individuals, they determined each TB strain’s path through the community.

reporter@albenrivalleynews.com

 *Watch for further updates to this story on www.albernivalleynews.com

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