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Finding and Following Bugs

Genomic tools are helping researchers and clinicians detect pathogens, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports.

For instance, JAMA recounts, next-generation sequencing of a blood sample from a Kansas man with a mysterious and eventually lethal infection uncovered a novel virus, now dubbed the Bourbon virus for the county in which he lived. Similarly, genomic tools have enable researchers and clinicians to track a Klebsiella pneumonia outbreak at the NIH Clinical Center.

As such tools are becoming faster and cheaper, JAMA says they may become more common in tertiary medical centers, but that everyday clinical care will likely rely on rapid PCR-based molecular diagnostic tests that are based on what such sequencing endeavors uncover.

"We don't need to do genome sequencing for a patient who comes in with an E. coli urinary tract infection, but we do need it in the context of an ICU that cares for, say, a critically ill patient who has had a bone marrow transplant, to find out what [microbes] that person was colonized with," Julie Segre from the National Human Genome Research Institute tells JAMA.

Others caution that issues like sample contamination underscore the need to test the validity of genomic approaches.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.