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The science behind new precision in disease surveillance

How Whole Genome Sequencing is advancing public health officials’ mission to protect communities around the world 

Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) has revolutionized disease detection and characterization in a variety of ways. For physicians and researchers, WGS has led to advancements in precision medicine, rare disease diagnosis and cancer genomics. For epidemiologists and public health agencies, WGS provides extensive information about the genomic makeup of pathogens. This technology identifies disease-causing mutations, providing insights on disease spread during outbreaks.  

The effectiveness of WGS is driven by five key abilities, helping laboratorians to: 

  1. Identify pathogens: By sequencing the genomes of bacteria, viruses and fungi, laboratorians can track their spread, evolution and drug resistance. This is particularly valuable in infectious disease outbreaks and allows organizations to rapidly identify the cause of the outbreak and its transmission dynamics.  
  2. Understand transmission patterns: By comparing the genomes of pathogens isolated from different individuals, laboratorians can reconstruct transmission chains and track the spread of diseases across communities and continents.  
  3. Detect mutations: WGS helps researchers identify genetic mutations associated with disease susceptibility, severity or drug resistance. By analyzing the genetic variants present in affected individuals, laboratorians can gain insights into factors that contribute to disease progression. 
  4. Better monitor outbreaks: WGS helps teams monitor the emergence and spread of infectious disease outbreaks in real-time. By sequencing samples isolated from patients, laboratorians can track the evolution of pathogens and detect any changes that may affect their virulence, transmissibility and response to treatment. 
  5. Strengthen disease surveillance and preparedness: WGS data can be integrated into existing surveillance systems to enhance the early detection of infectious diseases and pandemics. By monitoring genetic data from circulating pathogens, public health officials can identify emerging threats and proactively prevent their spread. 

New developments in whole genome sequencing and disease surveillance 

With millions of COVID-19 genomes sequenced worldwide since 2020, its vital that public health officials establish an inclusive data-driven network that integrates genetic insights from sequenced pathogens with patient information, ensuring a holistic approach to disease management and research.  

Conduent’s Maven Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Management System is a powerful tool in this mission. The solution encompasses a suite of tools designed to capture various aspects of WGS. These tools facilitate the acquisition and organization of critical data points, including recording identification numbers, resistant genes and variant lineages/sublineages.  

Additionally, Maven uses Electronic Laboratory Reporting (ELR) and Electronic Case Reporting (eCR) to rapidly automate surveillance case creation.  WGS information uses that same mechanism and connects with person-level demographic information providing a complete picture of symptoms, exposures and pathogen genomics. 

Maven, currently used by 28 country, state and local jurisdictions around the world, also provides Rapid Deployment Modules to enable swift responses from government and local health agencies to rapidly evolving healthcare demands, effectively managing sudden surges in volume to mitigate the spread of diseases. 

WGS remains a transformative force in healthcare and epidemiology. Its impact spans from empowering physicians and researchers with precision medicine tools to shedding light on rare diseases. For epidemiologists and public health agencies, it provides a powerful lens into pathogen genomics, crucial for tracking and containing outbreaks by pinpointing transmission. Its continued integration promises to further revolutionize disease detection and management on a global scale. 

Ready to discover why Maven is a trusted health platform by public health agencies around the world? Visit us online to learn more and reach out to an expert.  

About the Author

Alycia McNutt is an epidemiologist with Conduent’s Public Health Solutions. She channels her passion for data and analytics to provide enhancements to Conduent’s Maven Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Management System. With a background in bacterial genomics and several publications including outbreak detection using WGS in multi-state outbreaks, Alycia sheds light on the intricate web of microbial life and its impact on human health.

Profile Photo of Alycia McNutt