Although one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the disease garners relatively little attention, as it is predominantly a disease of developing nations and disadvantaged populations. In 2011, approximately 8.7 million new cases of tuberculosis were identified and 1.4 million tuberculosis-related deaths occurred worldwide. Although tuberculosis in Canada has steadily decreased over the last 30 years, it continues to disproportionately affect some populations in Canada. Antimicrobial-resistant strains are evolving and becoming increasingly difficult to treat. Significant advances against tuberculosis (TB) have been made in the past century, but without new tools for TB diagnosis and management, it will be impossible to further reduce the burden of disease worldwide.
This project involving the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), Oxford University and Public Health England (PHE) is building data-sharing capacity between the three groups to accelerate the use of genomics as a tool for the diagnosis, treatment and tracking of TB. This work will support PHE and BCCDC’s efforts to validate the use of a genomic platform in a clinical setting through developing user-friendly reports to assist doctors in faster and more effective diagnosis and treatment. This research project is exploring how to communicate the complex data from a genomics-based test in a simple and effective laboratory report. This will allow clinicians, many of whom have not worked with genomic data before, to quickly and easily find the information and get the interpretation they need to ensure a direct benefit for patients. As part of SMAC (Sharing Mycobacterial Analytic Capacity), the UK and Canadian teams are also sharing resources and expertise in TB genomics and bioinformatics in order to accelerate the clinical validation and implementation of genomics-based TB diagnostics, first in the UK, and ultimately in BC.