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Between 5% and 10% of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients become infected with Mycobacterium abscessus, a pathogen that thrives in the excess of thick mucus amassing in the airways of CF patients. Some of them die as a result. Until recently, scientists believed that patients picked up the microbe at random, from the soil or water. But an analysis of hundreds of bacterial genomes from patients around the world, published in this week's issue of Science, suggests that the bacterium has adapted to humans and that several dangerous strains are spreading from one CF treatment center to the next, from country to country, and even between continents in a silent global epidemic.