Responding to emergencies with genomics

What happens when you get an outbreak of a disease? You sequence it to tell you where it’s come from, how it’s spreading and most importantly how to combat it.

Project Summary.

Start March 2012

Duration Ongoing

One of the pillars of the BBSRC National Capability in Genomics at EI is the use of our technologies to respond to emergencies where required. Our tools are largely high-throughput sequencing machines and this means we can do genomic characterisation, not just of emerging pathogens, but also their host species.

We’re proud to have played a part in the Nornex consortium efforts to characterise Ash dieback disease. Members of the Platforms and Pipelines Group delivered RNA-Seq and DNA sequencing data of the pathogen, but also generated the data underlying the differences between resistant and susceptible trees.

However pathogens don’t stop evolving, and consequently we remain ready to characterise the next threat to emerge. Currently we work closely with the field pathogenomics approaches developed by Dr Diane Saunders keeping track of emerging rust pathogens of wheat.

Impact statement.

Allowing researchers to interrogate pathogen outbreaks rapidly is an essential tool in being able to combat their spread. Whether a bacterial or viral outbreak in humans, or a fungal outbreak on an important crop, understanding the evolution of pathogens, and mechanisms of resistance to diseases can be a turning point in mitigating against their future spread.