Illumina plans bacterial genomics clinical microbiology service

20 November 2014

Genome sequencing company Illumina has announced plans to launch a new next-generation sequencing (NGS) epidemiology solution for microbiology service laboratories.

In partnership with in vitro diagnostic multi-national bioMérieux, who are experienced in microbiology, Illumina will develop systems for bacterial genotyping to underpin prevention measures and rapid tracking and containment of infectious disease agents in communities and hospitals. These will be provided via designated laboratories with Illumina MiSeq® sequencing systems supported by a secure cloud-based sequence analysis using a co-developed proprietary genomic database of over 80,000 bacterial sequences, allowing not only the precise identification of different strains of bacteria but also information on their virulence and anti-microbial resistance.

The planned service will deliver a customised and ‘easily accessible’ report of the genomic profile of potentially pathogenic bacteria in, including the depth and accuracy of sequence data and analysis to identify and characterise the bacterial strain. The aim will be to allow hospital microbiology and public health laboratories to improve infection control, and rapidly identify and contain outbreaks and potential epidemics.

Illumina’s Chief Executive Jay Flatley said: “We are excited by the opportunity to expand the number of NGS-based applications in the infectious disease market with a solution designed for epidemiology and hospital infection control”.

The PHG Foundation’s Programme Lead for Science Dr Leila Luheshi, who is leading a major project on the clinical impact of microbial genomics, said that pathogen genomic data would have a huge part to play in improving infectious disease surveillance and it was great to see this fact underlined by a large-scale commercial collaboration.

However, she also sounded a note of caution, commenting: " While the future availability of commercially developed 'out of the box solutions' for pathogen genomics may serve to accelerate the uptake of genomics, particularly if they provide user friendly analytical software accessible to non-bioinformatics trained laboratory staff, there are also potential downsides to the use of proprietary systems, particularly if they do not enable the genomic data generated to be made widely and freely available to other parts of the health system, and to legitimate researchers”.

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