Scientists have used genome sequencing technology to control an MRSA outbreak, hinting towards the possibility of using the technique to improve disease diagnosis, which would allow for more effective treatment and reduced healthcare costs.
A study conducted by genome sequencing company Illumina and a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, recreated samples from a 2009 MRSA outbreak and responded to it in real time.
Using latest sequencing technology from Illumina, the team uncovered that genome sequencing produced results in roughly 24 hours and provided researchers with more detailed information.
During the study, researchers were able to identify the strain of MRSA faster than current clinical testing methods, which would feasibly allow clinicians to treat the outbreak and prevent it from spreading beyond control.
Cambridge University study leader, Sharon Peacock, told Reuters: "I think we are at the very beginning of an explosion of evidence to support the use of whole genome sequencing in public health."
Genome sequencing was used successfully to identify the source of the E.coli outbreak in Europe in 2011.
While the researchers have said that the fast genome sequencing used in the study could eventually form the basis of a regional or national infection surveillance programme, rigorous cost-benefit analyses will need to be undertaken before any roll-out.
Image: Illumina's genome sequencing technology produced results of the MRSA outbreak in roughly 24 hours. Photo courtesy of: Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.