Breakthrough in TB research

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New findings on tuberculosis (TB) were recently announced at the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on tuberculosis, and have already led to decisions in England, the Netherlands and New York to deliver treatment according to DNA sequencing results.

The international project was led by the international CRyPTIC consortium, facilitated by the UK Government’s 100,000 Genomes Project, and involved researchers from Queen Mary University of London, The University of Oxford, University of Leeds, Imperial College London, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It was the largest of its kind, covering more than 10,000 TB genomes from 16 partner countries. The hope is that it could lead to quicker, more tailored treatment for the millions of people around the world living with TB. The analysis suggests that by sequencing the genomes of the TB bacteria present in a patient’s blood, doctors can now predict the susceptibility of the infection to different drugs with a sufficient degree of accuracy to guide their choice of drugs to prescribe.

Professor Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England, Co-Director of Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute and Director of the NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre, said: “The 100,000 Genomes Project has amassed the largest collection of whole human genomes linked to direct healthcare. Here, researchers working with Genomics England and with other agencies have demonstrated that DNA sequencing can be used to guide first-line treatment of tuberculosis. This shows that genomic medicine can enable precision care of millions of people, in the UK and around the world.”

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser for the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, said: “Developing more effective approaches to treating multi-drug-resistant TB is crucial for the thousands of people affected in the UK and millions worldwide. This study is just one example of how the government is supporting research into how new technologies can help us tackle drug-resistant infections and thus preserve the effectiveness of current antibiotic treatments.”