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Ah, That's What It Is

A number of companies are using genomic tools to try to quickly identify infections making patients ill, the New York Times reports.

The typical way of gauging the source of a patient's infection — growing a sample on a Petri dish — hasn't changed much in more than a hundred years, the Times notes. But increasingly, companies are examining the DNA or RNA within those samples and comparing it to a database of infectious agents to identify the cause.

"I've been practicing medicine for 40 years and it's mind-boggling to think that a supercomputer can go through billions of nucleotides and spit out a result in a few hours," Stephen Zekan, a surgeon in West Virginia who used a test from Aperiomics to diagnose a woman he first suspected had a tick-borne disease with tuberculosis, tells the Times.

But as the Times notes there are still hurdles to the wider adoption of these tests, including their sensitivity and cost. These tests cost between $500 and $3,000, it adds, and few are covered by health insurers, especially as many are still going through the regulatory approval process.