First portable DNA sequencer proves fruitful in finding disease quickly and accurately

In June 2014, Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham reported an outbreak of Salmonella infection. It affected 30 patients and staff in two wards and spread to long-term in-patients on two adjoining wards. Salmonella food poisoning is associated with eggs and undercooked poultry, and although outbreaks are common, they are rare in hospitals.

On June 12, the infection-control team sent 16 strains of the bacteria from patients’ faeces to Nick Loman, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of Birmingham. It wanted results ready for a meeting the following morning. “The hospital wanted to understand quickly what was happening,” Loman says. “But routine genome sequencing is quite slow. It usually takes weeks or even months to get information back.”

However, Loman had a new type of DNA sequencer that was, in theory, suited to the task. Called MinION, it was made by a British company called Oxford Nanopore and was based on a new technology called nanopore sequencing. “It was announced two years ago as the first portable device that could do rapid DNA sequencing in real time,” Loman says. “Everybody was excited. Then for a long period nothing happened. We started to worry. Some people were even saying it was never going to happen because the technology they used defied the laws of physics.”

Loman used MinION to detect Salmonella in some of the samples sent from Heartlands, obtaining results in less than 15 minutes. Two hours later, he concluded that the majority of the Salmonella strains were part of the same outbreak, except for a second smaller outbreak linked to children who had been to Egypt. When the genome sequence of the Salmonella was compared with other strains in the public-health databases, the results suggested a link with cases not only in London, Bedford and Northampton but also in Germany, France and Austria. The source was a German egg supplier.

Read full, original article: Your genes can now be sequenced using your USB port

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped

Video: We can ‘finally’ grow GMOs—Nigerian farmer explains why developing countries need biotech crops

Nigerian farmer Patience Koku discusses the GMO crop trials she is conducting on her farm, and why growers can "rise ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend