Pathogen Discovery in the Context of Childhood Mortality and Encephalopathy
James Berkley and Abdi Abdirahman of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom will test whether metagenomic analysis of clinical samples from patients with suspected infectious diseases can better identify the causative pathogens than current diagnostic methods, to help improve treatment. In Africa and Asia, many severely malnourished infants die after being discharged from a hospital likely due to infectious disease syndromes such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and sepsis. However, the causative pathogen remains unidentified in the vast majority of cases due to the limited sensitivity of current diagnostic methods. Another group highly vulnerable to the limitations of diagnostics currently available in low-resource settings are those with suspected viral encephalitis, which can cause acute seizures and coma. If diagnosed correctly, some of these diseases are treatable. They will use next generation sequencing to perform metagenomic analyses of samples from patients in both groups to identify the causative pathogens, and test whether first isolating extracellular vesicles that may concentrate viral nucleic acids from the samples can improve sensitivity.