Research Highlights | Published:

Infectious disease

Sequencing tracks outbreak

Nature volume 486, page 296 (21 June 2012) | Download Citation

Whole-genome sequencing has enabled researchers to confirm which patients in a hospital were affected by a particular outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant pathogen — at a cost and on a timescale that are clinically relevant.

Sharon Peacock at the University of Cambridge, UK, and her team sequenced isolates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) from 14 hospitalized patients, half of whom had become carriers of a specific strain of MRSA during an outbreak in the neonatal intensive care unit. In about 1.5 days and at a cost of some US$150 per isolate, the authors generated sequences that showed a clear genetic distinction between outbreak and non-outbreak isolates.

The researchers predict that, as whole-genome sequencing costs and turnaround times fall, this will become a standard tool for controlling the spread of dangerous pathogens.

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