Clinical Perspectives in Integrating Whole Genome Sequencing into the Investigation of Healthcare and Public Health Outbreaks - Hype or Help?

Benjamin J Parcell, Stephen H Gillespie, Kerry A Pettigrew, Matthew T G Holden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Outbreaks pose a significant patient safety risk as well as being costly and time consuming to investigate. The implementation of targeted infection prevention and control (IPC) measures relies on infection prevention and control teams (IPCTs) having access to rapid results that accurately detect resistance, and typing results that give clinically useful information on the relatedness of isolates. At present, determining whether transmission has occurred can be a major challenge. Conventional typing results do not always have sufficient granularity or robustness to unequivocally define strains, and sufficient epidemiological data to establish links between patients and the environment is not always available. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has emerged as the ultimate genotyping tool, but has not yet fully crossed the divide between research method and routine clinical diagnostic microbiology technique. A clinical WGS service was officially established in 2014 as part of the Scottish Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Institute (SHAIPI) to confirm or refute outbreaks in hospital settings from across Scotland. In this personal view we describe our experiences that we believe provide new insights into the practical application of the use of WGS to investigate healthcare and public health outbreaks. We also propose solutions to overcome barriers to implementation of this technology in a clinical environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Hospital Infection
Early online date9 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Nov 2020

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