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To Find It and Stop It

Whole-genome sequencing is catching on as a means to help stop the spread of pathogens in hospitals, Scientific American's Jenni Laidman writes.

A team from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham recently reported in Genome Medicineon its efforts to control a long-lasting outbreak of drug-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii there. By combining sequencing with epidemiological approaches, the researchers were able to determine how A. baumannii was moving through the hospital — it was pinpointed to a single operating theater and then a resurgence to a specific, specialized hospital bed — and take measures to quell the outbreak, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Members of that same team, Laidman notes, had used the same approach to trace a Pseudomonas aeruginosa outbreak to a water temperature regulator.

"Successes such as these have helped make whole-genome sequencing a central component in a new strategy to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria in the US," she says.

For instance, Laidman says the White House Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report in the fall, calling for the use of whole genome sequencing to detect infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria as well as for the development of a reference set of antibiotic-resistant bacteria genomes.

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