DNA sequencing is finally reaching the point where it is fast and cheap enough to make a real impact on routine healthcare. While most of the interest focuses on its potential to personalize medical treatment based on an individual's genetics, the technology offers much broader potential. For example, automated high throughput DNA sequencing techniques appear to be about to revolutionize our ability to track and contain infectious disease outbreaks.
The ability to obtain massive amounts of genetic information about any pathogen infecting an individual is a radical departure from the biochemical and petri-dish characterizations currently used to diagnose microbial infection. Genetic analysis offers a way to uniquely profile any infectious organism in a way that traditional plus/minus tests can never really equal. As a result, researchers can rapidly generate a rich array of information to track the progression of an outbreak, identify the sources of infection, and quickly respond to contain and control its spread.
For more information on how DNA sequencing is being used in this manner, check out two new articles just posted: