A novel diagnostic platform may be able to quickly and accurately identify any viral or bacterial infection after analysis of a single specimen, according to a press release.
“Our current tests can be expensive, time consuming and aren’t always accurate,” Samir Patel, PhD, of the University of Toronto’s laboratory medicine and pathobiology department, said in the release. “Next generation sequencing will revolutionize the microbiology field. With the information it provides, we can fine-tune patient treatment.”
The platform relies on a database containing information from thousands of bacteria and viruses. After analyzing the genetic code from a patient’s sample using the new technology, Patel and his team are able to match up the data and provide a diagnosis.
“Should any outbreak occur in Ontario, we could test samples, identify the bacteria or virus that is causing the outbreak and track the spread using a systematic process,” Patel said. “We can also see how infectious a virus or bacteria is, and if similar strains are circulating through other parts of the world.”
According to the release, Patel began using this technology in 2012 for Public Health Ontario. Since then, the platform has been used to identify and track specific strains of Ebola virus spreading throughout West Africa.
“With this new technology we can streamline ordering 30 different tests,” Patel said. “We can just order the one test and identify the pathogen — whether it’s dengue fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya virus or a new bacteria or virus.”
Next generation sequencing should be available for routine clinical use in about 1 year, Patel said.
“Dr. Patel’s work in pathogen discovery aims to deliver a one-stop shop that can definitely determine the causative organisms in severe infections such as meningitis and encephalitis,” Vanessa Allen, MD, MPH, chief of medical microbiology at Public Health Ontario, said in the release. “This has the potential to revolutionize the way we deliver microbiology diagnostics for improved patient care.”