Portable genome sequencing as a point-of-care diagnostic test in remote tropical Australia

Towards a genomics-based point-of-care diagnostic test for Northern Australia.

Respiratory disease, fevers, and sepsis are common in tropical northern Australia, and treatment often requires admission to hospital. These infections have many different causes, and diagnosing them requires multiple tests that take weeks to perform and are outsourced to centralized health laboratories. Strikingly, a diagnosis is only achieved in approximately 50% of cases of these diseases. Consequently, patients are typically treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics before a pathogen is identified, which can lead to poorer outcomes for the patient and contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections. We will trial new portable genome sequencing technology as a point-of-care diagnostic test for fever, sepsis, and pneumonia at Thursday Island Hospital in Far North Queensland. We will test the hypothesis that this new approach will increase the proportion of infections that are diagnosed and reduce the time it takes to achieve a diagnosis. Throughout the course of this project, clinical staff and health workers will have the opportunity to be trained in specimen preparation, genome sequencing, and data interpretation. This will increase diagnostic capability in the tropical north, as well as encourage links between clinical and research staff in the region.

  • Dr Cadhla Firth

  • Professor John McBride

  • James Cook University

  • 2019-2020

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