Areas with limited resources gain tools for real-time outbreak surveillance

The new sequencer was first used in Conakry, Guinea in April last year.
The new sequencer was first used in Conakry, Guinea in April last year. | File photo

Researchers recently created a genome sequencing laboratory that can be transported in a suitcase, giving areas with limited resources access to real-time outbreak surveillance for diseases in their regions.

The new research, available in Nature journal, demonstrates this genome sequencing can be used to monitor and control outbreaks around the world.

The new sequencer can be carried in less than the required 50 kilograms of luggage that airlines have instituted. It was first used in Conakry, Guinea in April last year. The researchers took samples of Ebola from patients and the sequenced the samples when the new Ebola cases were confirmed.

"Genome sequencing information is valuable for researchers and epidemiologists during an epidemic,” Dr. Nick Loman, the co-author of the study from the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, said. "Yet, generating such information is a laborious process typically performed in well-equipped laboratories using large, delicate and expensive hardware. Having a portable DNA sequencing system opens up the possibility to do outbreak genome sequencing in real-time, which can directly impact on the response on the ground, as well as providing a wealth of information about pathogen evolution. Crucially we shared our data as it was generated, increasing its use immensely."

This new tool also can save time, as it takes significant periods to ship samples to traditional genome laboratories that are usually in a different country or even on another continent. With the new tool, the genome sequencing is finished in approximately 24 hours.

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University of Birmingham

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