by Caterina Dassie
On the 24th March, world tuberculosis day, Oxford and Birmingham University researches spread the news of being first scientists to have done a discovery in the recognition of tuberculosis (TB). Via the whole genome sequencing method (WGS), they are able to detach specific strains of the well-known bacterial infection.
Almost one year ago, Oxford University researchers started a world-reaching partnership named CRyPTIC (Comprehensive Resistance Prediction for Tuberculosis: An International Consortium). This collaboration has since been founded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MRC Newton Fund and the Wellcome Trust. They aimed to accelerate the detection of TB, gather, scrutinize and manage drug-resistance experiments with more than 100,000 samples. And finally, eradicate the spreading of the disease throughout the world by 2035.
In 2013, researches showed that more than 480,000 people affected by TB were resilient to the foremost antibiotics used to attack the disease and 1.5 million victims died because of it. The time-consuming process of detecting which drugs can eliminate precise TB contaminations, delayed diagnosis and the attribution of the right medicine to patients, increasing the chance of the spread of the bacterial infection. What is more, England is one of the highest rated country In Europe of cases of tuberculosis.
When the partnership was firstly established, by utilizing the WGS, scientists’ aim was to read letters of each tuberculosis sample’s genetic code to then categorize TB rebellious to specific drugs. Because as Professor Derrick Crook – who leads Oxford’s Modernizing Medical Microbiology team and is the Director of National Infection Service at PHE (Public Health England) – agrees: “the key is that you need to know which genetic mutations cause drug resistance – it turns out there are a host of rare mutations which are the culprits, and so we have assembled a consortium to collect a large number samples from across the world, and both measure their drug resistance and decode their genomes.” However, a few days ago, the PHE reported that Oxford and Birmingham University researchers are using the sequencing method to classify diverse strains of TB. The increment of the drug-resistant strains of TB number was distancing the researchers from eliminate the disease. This new practice leads to faster the treatment and recognition of the best drug to be given to the patient. WGS is, in fact, able to sequencing DNA of dissimilar genomes in almost a week. Previously, this process took scientists mouths in order to detect all the necessary information, increasing, thus, the chance of spreading the bacterial infection.
By reducing the time of TB-affected patients’ identification and treatment selection, Britain is moving closed to eliminate the disease from its shores. In the future, the method could be also used to quickly diagnose and cure a wider spectrum of infections, stopping the spread and perhaps reduce the costs to NHS in hospitalization.