Genomics is transforming modern infectious disease surveillance, expanding our understanding of pathogen evolution, host–pathogen interactions, and antibiotic resistance. In turn, public health professionals are changing the methods they use to protect epidemics and pandemics of high-profile diseases, such as tuberculosis, HIV, and influenza.
Traditional methods of assessing infectious agents include antibody-based testing, real-time PCR, pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and multilocus sequence typing (MLST). These methods are typically useful only for a small and defined number of organisms, and data analysis can be subjective.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) provides a universal, hypothesis-free method for infectious disease surveillance that can be used with viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Genomic analysis with NGS provides high-resolution information to distinguish pathogen strains that differ by as little as one SNP, and it can replace multiple tests.
Microbial whole-genome sequencing is the primary NGS method for infectious disease surveillance. Illumina NGS technology delivers rapid results and high data quality that public health professionals are adopting to identify, track, and respond to outbreaks.
In 2014, the world looked to West Africa, where an Ebola outbreak claimed thousands of lives. To understand how to prevent future outbreaks, we spoke with researchers at the Broad Institute and in Sierra Leone. Their work underscores the need for sensitive tools to identify and monitor infectious disease threats.View Video