2 October 2014
Pathogen genomics has the potential to enable clinicians and public health practitioners to revolutionise the way in which they treat and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. However, a number of barriers exist to prompt and effective implementation across the health service with its complex landscape of delivery and commissioning organisations. In particular, there is an urgent need for strategic planning and coordination of service development and delivery across organisations. Current microbiological and molecular methods have limitations which impact on their ability to deliver the timely and detailed information required to effectively manage many cases of infectious disease. Recent advances in the field of genomics offer the opportunity to revolutionise the management of infectious disease by providing an unprecedented level of detailed information about the pathogens responsible.
There are a number of active research projects attempting to increase our understanding of infectious disease pathology with the ultimate aim of improving diagnosis, treatment and infection control practice. In addition, there are major initiatives underway that aim to translate pathogen genomics into practice in clinical settings within the UK. Some of the most promising potential applications are in the management of tuberculosis, where sequencing for identification and prediction of drug resistance is being piloted, and tackling MRSA where genomics can be used to identify the source of hospital outbreaks. These collaborative projects aim to provide evidence of the clinical utility of pathogen genomics. However, consideration must be given to how the results of these efforts are implemented in the wider health service for the benefit of patients.