Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is being touted as the next big thing in clinical microbiology, but lab directors and other industry stakeholders need to know how to separate reality from hype. Two clinical metagenomics experts plan to set the record straight during (33111) Real-Time Next Generation Sequencing for Infectious Diseases: Challenges and Opportunities, a scientific session at the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Chicago.

The speakers plan to talk about the different techniques available for detecting pathogens with an NGS infrastructure, including metagenomics, and what the current options are for clinical labs in 2018, Alex Greninger, laboratory medicine resident at University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, told CLN Stat. Greninger is co-presenting this session with Samia Naccache, PhD, a medical microbiology fellow at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Participants will learn how to define methods, opportunities, and challenges for:

  • Metagenomic detection of infectious diseases;
  • Viral and bacterial whole genome sequencing for transmission/infection control, and
  • Viral and bacterial during genome sequencing for antimicrobial resistance.

Greninger developed a new center for metagenomics and viral whole genomic sequencing. In an interview, he talks about the impact new technology will have in the field of clinical microbiology. “I oscillate between seeing a limited role as technology automates and decentralizes laboratory testing to a central role seeing healthcare providers functioning as the ‘long-arm of lab medicine,’” he said.

NGS technology expertise does promise to enhance microbiology labs’ pathogen-detecting arsenals, Greninger observed. However, no academic labs and few diagnostic companies have been able to incorporate true metagenomic testing into their workflows. “Clinical microbiology labs are still consolidating our recent gains from implementing rapid multiplex testing,” he said.

In the absence of clinically validated, publicly available pipelines, one of the biggest barriers to implementing NGS is developing, validating, and implementing informatics in microbiology labs, Greninger suggested. “Certainly the cost of sequencing is quite high, which makes the test validation costs very high as well,” he said. “The benefits remain to be defined by the clinical utility studies, but they include slightly greater clinical detection and more confidence in negatives from sterile sites compared to other testing.”

Greninger anticipates that 2018-2019 will bring some of the first clinical utility studies on the potential impact of metagenomics testing in real life settings. “It will be interesting to see how the infectious diseases community responds to the value and cost of metagenomics relative to clinical impact,” he said.

This scientific session will take place July 31 from 10:30 a.m. to noon and is worth 1.5 CE hours. Register now for the 70th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo July 29–August 2 in Chicago to attend this cutting-edge discussion.