Yes, There Is Money to Be Made in Microbial Sequencing

And I’m not the only one who thinks so in light of the recent paper about a KPC outbreak at an NIH hospital. From MSNBC (boldface mine):

Hospitals and long-term-care facilities, which also often experience infectious outbreaks, could become significant markets for sequencing companies. Roche, in a statement to Reuters, says “an obvious application” of DNA sequencing is “to define transmission pathways of pathogens and to support outbreak investigations.”

DNA sequencing could be a $1 billion market in the United States alone, estimated Pathogenica, a privately owned Cambridge, Massachusetts company founded in 2009. Its first product is the $2,950 HAI (Hospital Acquired Infection) BioDetection Kit. It can test 48 samples for the presence of 12 pathogens (including K. pneumoniae), using telltale genomic regions.

Might cash-strapped hospitals and nursing homes balk at the cost? “When you have patients in your ICU who just paid $100,000 for an organ transplant,” said Segre, spending a few thousand dollars to protect them from an outbreak of deadly bacterial infections “doesn’t seem like too much to ask.”

I have made this point before but it bears repeating: in combating the spread of infectious disease, the genome sequence itself–more accurately, converting that sequence into useful information–is the intervention. Knowing that you’re at risk for an outbreak, or experiencing one–hospital outbreaks, unlike food poisoning take place over a span of months–is critical so you can take preventative measures.

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