DNA readers could be available on the NHS within the next five years to help diagnose infectious diseases, The Telegraph have reported.
A publicly funded trial will see handheld DNA readers being used by scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The devices will be supplied by biotech firm Oxford Nanopore to see if faster diagnoses for pneumonia can be reached.
The trial will compare Oxford Nanopore’s Minion DNA reader against two other non-sequencing genetic tests and conventional NHS treatments. The devices will be tested for up to 18 months, before hospitals start clinical trials. The trial is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is aimed to fast-track approval for the most effective diagnostic tools for use in the NHS.
The trial is targeting the treatment of hospital-acquired pneumonia, which decreases patients’ survival chances and is responsible for 25% of infection cases in intensive care units.
Oxford Nanopore’s Minion enables genome sequencing to be completed within two days, giving doctors access to patients’ genetic coding so they identify effective treatments more quickly.
Dr Justin O’Grady, a lead scientist working on the trial at UEA, said: “At the moment doctors in ICU do not have the tools to rapidly and accurately identify bacteria causing pneumonia and so typically prescribe a broad spectrum of antibiotics through guesswork. We want to take the guesswork out of this.”
Britain’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies has said genome testing should be available on the NHS. In her annual report, Davies said: “I believe genomic services should be available to more patients, whilst being a cost-effective service in the NHS. This is exciting science with the potential for fantastic improvements in prevention, health protection and patient outcomes.”