Role of DNA in disease transmission discussed

One of B.C.’s top experts in DNA sequencing will be at Okanagan College's Vernon campus on March 5.

One of B.C.’s top experts in DNA sequencing and its relationship with disease outbreaks will be at the Vernon campus of Okanagan College on Tuesday, March 5. to present a lecture as part of the ongoing Science in Society speaker series.

Dr. Jennifer Gardy, who has hosted segments of CBC-TV’s The Nature of Things, is a molecular epidemiologist at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

Gardy leads the BCCDC’s Genome Research Laboratory. Her talk, DNA Detectives: Genomics and DNA sequencing to solve multiple mysteries, takes place at 7:30 p.m.

Understanding how an organism enters and spreads through a population plays a key role in public health efforts to manage an infectious disease outbreak and prevent future cases, whether that disease is tuberculosis or influenza.

“We can figure out how these bacteria are related to each other by comparing their genome sequences, and when we overlay that information onto a map of the social relationships between cases we can actually reconstruct the path by which an infectious agent worked its way through a population,” Gardy said.

Gardy said there was a time when this kind of research would have been cost prohibitive, but advances in science have changed all that with the result that sequencing even thousands of bacterial isolates is not only doable in a reasonable timeframe but also financially viable.

Gardy, who is an adjunct professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UBC, is a dynamic speaker and engaging science writer.

She has worked in science documentary television, including appearances on Discovery Channel’s nightly science news magazine Daily Planet, and had several stints hosting episodes of CBC-TV’s The Nature of Things.

After her clever episode Myth or Science, Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle tagged her as a possible successor to David Suzuki. Others have called her the new “It Girl of Science.”

To guarantee a seat, please register at Registration at the door will be available on a first come, first served basis.