The results of next generation gene technologies were on show at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' (RCVS) Charitable Trust conference 'Next Generation Sequencing - The Role of New Sequence Technologies in Shaping the Future of Veterinary Science, held in London on Tuesday 26 June.
Fifty new genomes have been sequenced using these technologies in a University of Liverpool project funded by £250,000 from the Trust. These include Campylobacter, which is the most prevalent zoonosis in the world and is estimated by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to cost the UK economy £0.5 billion annually.
The technologies increase the speed with which a scientist can determine a genome's 'base pairs' - the ladder-like rungs within a gene's double-helix-shaped structure. For example, to determine the 2 million base pairs of the Campylobacter genome could take a typical scientist using older technology many years, as only 1000 base pairs could potentially be determined each day. Using next generation technology, it would take the same scientist less than a day to potentially determine all 2 million base pairs of the genome.
"We wanted to make the resources and expertise that we have at Liverpool as widely available as possible to veterinary scientists and practitioners, as these technologies will undoubtedly help shape the future of veterinary science in areas from breeding to clinical diagnosis and treatment," said Dr Alan Radford, who led the project and chaired the conference.
"Soon, it will only cost around £1,000 to sequence mammalian genomes, and we will more quickly be able to discover new, potential pathogens, such as the Schmallenberg virus. By uncovering sequences from the rumen of cattle and sheep, we may even be able to help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he added.
Other genomes sequenced that were presented at the conference included; Streptoccus equi subsp. zooepidemicus, which affected almost the entire equine population of Iceland in 2010; Wolbachia, which has a role in African river blindness; Feline haemoplasmas, which is a common infectious disease in cats; and African swine fever virus, an important notifiable infection.
All 50 genomes sequenced were selected from requests made by universities and institutes from across the UK. Ten institutions were successful in requesting genomes to be sequenced. The results of some of these projects have led to seven peer-reviewed publications, and more are in progress.
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