Viruses are a major cause of morbidity and mortality, with a high cost to the NHS. Viruses have significant genomic variation, which underpins pathogenicity, drug resistance, and transmission.
Despite enormous advances in technology, we currently lack the systems, facilities and capacity to routinely capture full-length viral gene sequences, to monitor drug resistance at the granularity to optimally guide treatment, to identify the source of viral transmissions within healthcare settings, and to track emerging epidemics.
Professor Deenan Pillay of University College London and collaborators are developing next generation sequencing technology to capture virus genomes from clinical samples. The team’s goals are to i) deploy optimal methods for preparing clinical and surveillance isolates for sequencing, ii) develop robust and reliable real time full length virus sequencing, iii) deliver data to NHS users in a form suited to inform direct clinical care, hospital control, and intervention in epidemics. It is hoped that the technology will lead to more effective treatment of HIV and HCV infections, more targeted hospital infection control regarding norovirus infections, and better dynamic assessment and targeted management of community based viral outbreaks, in particular measles and influenza.