Genomics is revolutionising the practice of clinical microbiology, public health microbiology and epidemiology globally.
In genomics, the genetic code of an organism is deciphered. This analysis allows closely related organisms to be identified and outbreaks to be spotted well before, and with greater accuracy, than traditional microbiology approaches. One of the key limiting factors to this approach, however, is the availability of suitably trained scientists to interpret the genetic information.
To help fill the void, the Doherty Institute devised a course for clinical microbiologists, public health microbiologists and epidemiologists in the Asia-Pacific region. The short course introduces concepts and provides practical experience in the analysis and interpretation of microbial genome data for public health action, with a focus on antimicrobial resistance.
“We’ve been running the course since 2016 and have trained over 60 participants from Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Fiji and Samoa,” says University of Melbourne Professor Tim Stinear, Scientific Director of Doherty Applied Microbial Genomics.
“These individuals have returned to their regional laboratories with new capabilities and can stimulate the local development of genomics as a core microbiology tool.”
The week-long course takes students through the process of generating and the quality control of a genome sequence, step-by-step, and then leads into the key approaches to genome sequence analyses.
University of Melbourne Dr Aneley Getahun Strobel is a clinician working in Fiji. She completed the course and has now adopted a genomics approach to analysing typhoid fever bacteria from Fiji, working closely with University of Melbourne Dr Mark Davies. This work is helping identify disease carriers and common source outbreaks.
“The aim of the course is to really hone genome data analysis skills of participants so they can answer questions relevant to clinical microbiology and public health,” says Professor Stinear.
“Such questions include, ‘is this strain imported or local?’, ‘is it part of an outbreak that might have a common source?’, ‘is the drug resistance that a strain has developed part of a global trend requiring new treatment paradigms?’”