Portable DNA sequencing device brought into North Hospitals to fight against anti-microbial resistance

A cutting edge, portable DNA sequencing device is being brought into North Hospitals for the first time by scientists fighting against anti-microbial resistance.

The Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) has introduced the DNA sequencing device, MinION, to clinical researchers across the North. With a trial initiating in Liverpool it will then expand to centres in Sheffield, York & Hull Medical School, Newcastle and Lancaster.

The MinION, made by British company Oxford Nanopore, can be used to provide rapid identification of infectious agents and identify genes involved in AMR from clinical samples. This is expected to help to screen samples to determine which antibiotics will be effective when treating a disease, in turn expected to improve patient outcomes and the stewardship of antibiotics.

Dr Alistair Darby, Director of the Centre for Genomic Research at University of Liverpool, said:

The potential for this device is tremendous and extremely relevant for clinical research.  Using the consortium the NHSA brought together we hope to convert the technology into a clinically valid test for use with patients.

The MinION is a portable, real time, long read and low cost device that has opened up DNA sequencing to researchers who would never normally have access to this kind of technology.  This includes the Arctic, in Guinea for Ebola surveillance, in North East Brazil for Zika surveillance, in the Indian Ocean, on a mountain in Wales and on the International Space Station.

Dr Hakim Yadi, CEO of the Northern Health Science Alliance said:

The accessibility and portability of this technology means that it is highly relevant for taking sample analysis to more locations, for example out of centralised labs and into hospitals or primary care.  Its real time nature means that results can be available very quickly and could help clinicians to choose the right antibiotic for treating patients in a more timely way.

We have been working with Oxford Nanopore, who recognise its potential within hospitals.  Within a month we were able to gather key researchers from Liverpool, Sheffield, York & Hull Medical School, Newcastle and Lancaster around a table with Oxford Nanopore to begin discussing possible clinical applications.

With expertise based in clinical pathology, the potential for this technology to quickly assess anti-microbial resistance was realised and an agreement to begin validating the technology in this capacity was formed.

The centres using the technology are University of Liverpool Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine, Newcastle University, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Teaching Trust and Hull & East Yorkshire Teaching Hospital.

Funding for the pilot comes from the Medical Research Council.

Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION device is currently used in more than 50 different countries, in a number of applications in the laboratory and the field.

With coordinating support from the NHSA, the other four centres are providing thoughts and insight on which clinical samples and bacterial strains to look at; the overall aim of which will be to scale up and implement use of the technology across the five centres and eventually into standard NHS practice to fight anti-microbial resistance.  

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