Genomics and Clinical Microbiology

To be launched November 2020
Prof. Stephen Gillespie
University of St. Andrews, UK

Microbiologists, especially bacteriologists have depended on techniques to identify pathogens that were established in the latter part of the 19th century. A resurrected Koch or Pasteur would still understand what was happening in a microbiology laboratory today as it sometimes appears that little has changed. Yet, for clinical purposes these... read moremethods are too slow. They do not provide the answer to the patient’s question “What is wrong with me” in a timely way and they cannot provide the physician with the information that is needed to make an informed choice about antibiotic prescription, preventing transmission of pathogens or further emergence of resistance.
The advent of the genomics revolution where low cost sequencing is widely available and able to deliver pathogen genomes in little over one day is still to make its full impact, many believe that rapid molecular testing and the application of nucleotide sequencing technologies have the power to transform care.
Although genomics is a unifying technology it must be applied to the wide range of organisms which means that there is a diversity of techniques that must be applied in clinical practice. The issues are not only pathological but bioinformatic with a need to understand the biology of each individual organism to be able to translate the row of Gs Ts As and Cs generated by the sequencing machines into information that is meaningful to clinicians.
For physicians, the knowledge base to practice medicine is huge but pales into insignificance in comparison with the genetic and biological diversity of human pathogens. Thus, to identify and cluster microorganisms there is a need to build and interrogate large databases that contain the enormity of pathogen genetic space. This poses computational and interpretative challenges to achieve success.
This is a rapidly evolving scientific area that generates the excitement about how new genomic knowledge is rapidly opening the door to pathogens, to which ancient technique denied us access.
For many working in epidemiology and clinical practice, the fast-moving genomics and bioinformatics landscape can be difficult and hard to follow. In this series of talks, the aim is to demystify this important new tool so that scientists and practitioners can make use of the techniques. This will be achieved by providing a series of lectures from those who are leading the genomic revolution and making the genomic, and bio-informatic advances into the clinical sphere.
It is an exciting time to be engaged in the practice of clinical microbiology because of the new tools that are becoming available to solve old problems. This series will tell you about these developments in an exciting and informative way.