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Pathogen Genomics

Tracking the spread and mutation of pathogen-based disease outbreaks.

About our Pathogen Genomics service

We are using genomics to better understand the origin of pathogen-based disease outbreaks and how infectious diseases spread.

This helps limit the spread of infectious disease in the community.

Our role in the fight against COVID-19

NSW Health Pathology’s public health pathogen genomics service has been vital in the fight against COVID-19.

Soon after the first Australian case was confirmed, our teams provided early pathogen sequences direct from patients, grew the live virus and mapped its whole genome.

The sequences were uploaded to an international database for epidemiologists and researchers around the world.

This work has been critical to:

  • identify people at risk of COVID-19
  • manage new clusters of infection
  • minimise further spread of the virus in the community and among the most vulnerable.

Tracking and monitoring the spread of tuberculosis (TB) – a life-threatening respiratory infection

TB is one of the most common infectious diseases globally, infecting millions of people every year. Its treatment is prolonged - requiring at least four drugs in combination over many months.

When a person in NSW is diagnosed with TB, their pathology sample is analysed to:

  • determine the unique genetic makeup of each individual case
  • see how many other cases of TB are potentially related
  • understand whether markers of drug resistance are present.

The results are logged in a database that informs public health investigations of possible transmission clusters in the community and guides which medicines to use for best treatment.

The NSW Reference Laboratory at Westmead is part of the National Centre for Research Excellence in Tuberculosis and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre in Tuberculosis Research.

We participate in clinical trials of new drugs and assessment of potential anti-TB agents.

Understanding antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria

We are working to better understand how bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Our laboratories can sequence a whole bacterial or viral genome in one to two days.

This information could lead to new ways of preventing life-threatening diseases and help devise new and improved vaccines and antibiotics.


For Clinicians

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