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Biology
The strep infections they couldn't shakeWhen Dan Levitis, his wife, Iris, and their three young children trooped into a Madison, Wisconsin, urgent care clinic around 8 a.m. on New Year's Day 2018, the staff didn't seem surprised to see them. The family had sought treatment several times in the previous two months for recurrent strep throat infections. They had taken multiple rounds of drugs, professionally deep cleaned their home and replaced contaminated toothbrushes, but none of it worked for long. Inevitably, the infection came roaring back. "It seemed like the whole family was on antibiotics, had just stopped taking antibiotics or was coming down with strep again," recalled Levitis, an evolutionary biologist who at the time was an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin. That New Year's Day, rapid tests showed that Iris and all three children had strep; Levitis did not. Three weeks earlier Iris and two of the children were found to be infected. And two weeks following the New Year's visit, after everyone had taken a full course of antibiotics, two of the children tested positive. Over the next three months, which included several more bouts of strep, Levitis began to suspect that the cause of the repeated infection was in their home. But finding medical professionals who took his controversial hypothesis seriously proved to be a challenge. After a search, Levitis managed to find a receptive audience. And once the possible source of recurrent strep was treated, the round robin infection stopped. The first case occurred in late October 2017. Levitis was in Massachusetts on a research trip when his wife called to tell him that she and all three of their kids - Tigerlily, then 6, Kestrel, who was 3, and 14-month-old Peregrine - had tested positive for strep and were taking antibiotics. Levitis,...