Genomics for infectious disease management

31 October 2016

Maximising the benefits of genomic technologies for infectious disease management

Why this matters

Genomic technologies have the potential to transform the management of infectious diseases but they are still far from being used as an everyday clinical diagnoses tool. We do not want this opportunity to prove that genomics can truly ‘transform’ health services to be missed.

The advantages of using genomics to understand pathogens is that their genome sequences are much shorter and therefore cheaper and quicker to sequence than human genomes. The sequence data is of immense value, allowing precise identification of pathogen species and strains, and characterisation of virulence factors such as antibiotic resistance, with important applications including tackling outbreaks and drug resistance, personalising treatments, vaccine and drug design and novel threat detection. Read our introductory briefing note to find out more.

Our objectives

  • Ensure effective genomics service implementation and delivery, where this is justifiable on the basis of evidence, in the short term
  • Drive innovation and expansion in the range of genomics informed / enabled services that can be developed and delivered in the long term

Timeline

What we have been doing

  • We have led a national strategic review of the potential impact on public health and health services, working in consultation with leading stakeholders
  • Developed an implementation plan for policy-makers – published as our major report Pathogen Genomics Into Practice – setting out actions needed to transform pathogen genomics from a promising technology and discrete service pilots, into mainstream national infectious diseases services
  • Convened a summit of expert representatives of the main stakeholders involved in delivery of infectious disease services in England, to receive and review our findings and consider the way forward. Speakers included Dr Nick Loman (University of Birmingham), Professor Paul Kellam (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute / UCL) and Prof Sharon Peacock (Bloomsbury Research Institute) – read about this important event here

Our messages to stakeholders

Health policy makers
Implemented effectively in the English health system, pathogen genomics has the potential to make the UK a world leader in this area. The roadmap is an essential tool to successful implementation.

Frontline practitioners (providers and users)
By following our recommendations on service configuration and linking to the catalyst, this will ensure effective service development within your branch of the health system.

Frontline health service managers / commissioners (purchasers)
Be aware that this technology is almost ready for implementation, start to assess your needs and consider how its use can benefit you in managing nosocomial infections and in future, a much wider range of frontline diagnostic applications too.