Reducing the impact of infectious diseases is becoming increasingly vital as the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues to rise, threatening the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. The evolution of “superbugs” that can evade one or multiple drugs is one of the biggest threats facing medicine today.
At the beginning of the 20th century a forward-thinking UK microbiologist, Dr Sir John Ledingham, recognised a need for a trustworthy source of globally-available authentic bacteria for scientific studies and went on to establish the National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC) in 1920. This collection of live clinically-significant bacteria, encompassing strains isolated during the 19th century alongside those from the present day, represents a history of bacterial pathogens that cannot be replicated in a modern post-antibiotic environment.
By using long read whole genome sequencing technology, the team responsible for curating and operating NCTC collaborated with molecular scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in decoding the DNA of more than 3000 reference strains of pathogenic bacteria, many of which cause deadly diseases such as plague, dysentery, cholera and tuberculosis. This project has provided genomic data that researchers will be able to use to better understand these diseases and how they become resistant to antibiotics. The publicly available genomic maps support the development of new diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatments.
1. Understand the value of a culture collection in biomedical research
2. Recognise the significance of historical strains in understanding microbial evolution
3. Recognise some of the benefits of long read sequencing techniques for delivering reference genomes for pathogenic bacteria