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Welcome to Crash Course Outbreak Science! What do pathogens actually do to us that makes us sick? Why do societies respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases the way they do? How can we stop the next outbreak? These are the kinds of questions we'll ask ourselves and answer as best we can over the next 15 episodes of this series. Join us and Dr. Paris Sabeti as we look at outbreaks from the microscopic level, to the big picture, so that we can work together to stop future outbreaks and create a healthier future for everyone.

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We at Crash Course and our  partners Operation Outbreak and the Sabeti Lab at the Broad  Institute at MIT and Harvard want to acknowledge the Indigenous people  native to the land we live and work on, and their traditional and ongoing  relationship with this land.

We encourage you to learn about the  history of the place you call home through resources like native-land.ca and by engaging with your local  Indigenous and Aboriginal nations through the websites and resources they provide. A single virus is about one  thousandth the width of a human hair.

And yet they have the capacity to wreak  havoc on nearly all human life on Earth. Although we saw this play out when  the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in 2020, it still feels a little unbelievable. And the same big questions about  infectious disease outbreaks we   had before Covid-19 are as important as ever.

What do pathogens actually  do to us that makes us sick? Why do societies respond to outbreaks  of infectious diseases the way they do? And most importantly, how can  all of us help stop the next one?

These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves  in what we’ll collectively call Outbreak Science, which covers the many ways of  looking at epidemics, pandemics, and really any time an infectious disease  starts affecting more people than expected. I’m Pardis Sabeti, and welcome  to Crash Course Outbreak Science! I’m a geneticist who studies pathogens, tiny foreign invaders that  infect humans and cause disease.

I’ve spent over two decades developing genetic   tools that shed light on how  our relationship to pathogens, past and present, has shaped  our history, lives and biology. As a professor at Harvard University,. I work with an amazing collective of scientists at  the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

My team and I have also spent time in West Africa  studying deadly viruses like Lassa and Ebola. In 2014, we found ourselves on the front  line of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Using genetic techniques we  had been developing for years, we helped to uncover the course of  Ebola from its animal origins to humans, and the mutations that helped it on its path.

Tracking the history of a pathogen through its  genes is one fascinating part of outbreak science. But outbreak science incorporates   lots of disciplines that help explain  the mechanics of infectious diseases and how we can intervene to  break the cycle of transmission. To tackle outbreaks, scientists  use techniques from epidemiology,   anthropology, microbiology, sociology, and more to better understand the drivers  of diseases and identify the ways   we can act to keep ourselves safe.

In many ways, outbreak science is about   us and our interactions with each  other and the world around us. Over the course of this series, we’ll  look at where outbreaks come from, and how the way we live creates new risks for  diseases to spring up and spread amongst us. We’ll take a trip through the history of  outbreaks, and how different pathogens, from bacteria to viruses, have shaped  civilizations, from their economies to warfare.

We’ll learn how to become germ detectives  and equip ourselves with scientific methods that let us spot, track, defend against, and even eradicate  the pathogens behind infectious diseases. And at the heart of it all, we’ll understand   the people whose actions shape how  outbreaks progress– including you! Even though diseases spread from person to person, our capacity to connect with  one another and create fair,   sustainable and resilient social systems is one of the most powerful tools we have  at keeping ourselves safe from disease.

I’ve seen this first hand, on  the ground during real outbreaks, where health professionals and  scientists have collaborated, risked their own lives, and sometimes  even tragically lost them, to help others. These remarkable acts of teamwork and  heroism show the high stakes of outbreaks, and the importance of structures that can  support us in the face of future outbreaks. So, we’ll have whole episodes about  how public health organizations, governments and even physical infrastructure  like roads and computer networks help different groups tackle and  prevent outbreaks in the first place, ultimately saving lives.

Because while it’s easy to think this all happens  automatically as part of scientific progress, in reality, systems like this come together  because individuals make choices to cooperate, consider the big picture  and learn from one another. We hope you’ll join us in learning about  outbreak science, so that together, we can go a step further in stopping outbreaks  and ensure healthier futures for everyone. Thanks for watching this episode  of Crash Course Outbreak Science, which was produced by Complexly in  partnership with Operation Outbreak   and the Sabeti Lab at the Broad  Institute of MIT and Harvard— with generous support from the  Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

If you want to help keep Crash  Course free for everyone, forever,   you can join our community on Patreon.