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Hopkins genetics experts aid efforts to identify hurricane Katrina victims

Experts at Johns Hopkins are joining efforts to identify more than 70 bodies recovered after Hurricane Katrina, which struck last Aug. 29, killing more than 1,200 in Louisiana and Mississippi. Most of those killed have already been identified and buried by their families.

Using experience gained in DNA analysis of human remains after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Hopkins epidemiologists and genetic counselors are helping Louisiana state officials with the complex task of collecting data on family history, a key step in the complex system of DNA testing that state officials must use to match the dead to some of the families of more than 2,000 people still listed as missing from the disaster.

"Both disasters, the attack on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina, have challenged the nation's abilities to handle mass-fatality identification beyond anything ever experienced before," says Joan Bailey-Wilson, Ph.D., an adjunct professor at Hopkins and statistical geneticist. Bailey-Wilson, also co-chief of the Inherited Disease Research Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, a member of the National Institutes of Health, has been coordinating national efforts of other geneticists who have volunteered from across the country to assist with victim identification in the Gulf region. She sits on an expert panel, along with Hopkins' Elizabeth Pugh, Ph.D., M.P.H., a genetic epidemiologist, to advise crime lab staff and the coroners' offices in both states responsible for identifying the dead and missing. It is a repeat role for the two, who also served on a panel for the medical examiner's office in New York City after the World Trade Center attacks five years ago.

Bailey-Wilson and Pugh have both visited the Gulf region since November 2005 to assist the Louisiana State Police Crime Laboratory with its efforts to manage the identification process and collection of buccal swabs (of the mouth cavity) from family membe
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
29-Mar-2006


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