Same day test identifies secondary infections in COVID-19 patients

Nov. 26, 2021

A same-day test successfully identified secondary infections for patients in intensive care units in hours rather than days, according to research from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and reported in a news release.

Researchers evaluated the test with COVID-19 patients, and show that the test identified within 24 hours both bacterial and fungal infections as well as outbreaks with resistant bacteria.

The DNA sequencing-based test was evaluated by doctors in the intensive care unit (ICU) at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, with 34 ICU patients during the first COVID-19 pandemic wave.

The research was conducted at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in collaboration with researchers from King’s College London and the Quadram Institute. The study is published in Genome Medicine.

When critically ill patients are cared for in the ICU, doctors take deep samples from their lungs. Currently, these samples are often sent to multiple labs where different bacterial and fungal cultures are set up alongside other complex molecular tests. Initial results take two to four days to return. During this time the patient often remains on standard antibiotic treatment, some of which may be unnecessary. In other patients, the treatment may be ineffective, as the bacteria has resistance genes to the standard antibiotics.

The new same-day test uses cutting edge Nanopore sequencing technology to identify all bacterial and fungal pathogens present in patients’ samples, as well as any resistance genes present. The advance means that unnecessary treatment can be reduced, and patients can benefit from starting the right treatment sooner.

The following day, the same test provides enough genetic sequence to compare pathogen genomes with a database that accurately identifies patients carrying the same strain so outbreaks can be detected at the very start. This is the first time this combined benefit of a single test has been demonstrated, according to the health system.

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