England will become the first country in the world to use whole genome sequencing (WGS) to identify different strains of tuberculosis.
WGS techniques are increasingly being used for public health investigation of infectious diseases, as the method can provide faster, cheaper and more accurate diagnostics than other testing methods.
“Whole genome sequencing is being used to identify different strains of tuberculosis in England, marking a world first.“
Previously, confirming a diagnosis of tuberculosis could take up to a month, but Public Health England's Birmingham laboratory will now be able to accomplish this in little over a week. This makes it easier to find the right treatment choice, slow the spread of the disease and aid the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
It marks the first time that WGS has been used as a diagnostic solution for managing a disease on this scale anywhere in the world.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "These pioneering techniques will change patients' lives in the NHS, as well as being used across the globe to slow the spread of a terrible disease and take the fight to drug-resistant infection."
In future, it is hoped that WGS can be used for other conditions to make it possible to test and treat patients at their bedside, rather than needing to wait days or weeks for results.
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