Our researchers are presenting new work at a prestigious Microbiology Conference, sharing their latest findings on understanding and diagnosing infectious diseases.

The European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, takes place in Lisbon, Portugal from April 23-26 as a hybrid event both onsite and online. The Congress is the world’s premier Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases event, bringing together experts from many fields to present their latest findings, guidelines and experiences, including our expert researchers Dr Luke Blagdon Snell, Dr Gaia Nebbia and Professor Jonathan Edgeworth.

Our clinicians Dr Luke Blagdon Snell and Dr Gaia Nebbia will be presenting their latest findings on how SARS-CoV-2 changes over time in immunocompromised individuals.

Along with colleagues from King’s College London, they studied the virus from nine immunocompromised patients, who tested positive for the virus for at least eight weeks. Infections persisted for 73 days, on average, but two patients had persistent infections for more than a year. One of the patients is thought to have had the longest documented case of COVID-19 at 505 days.

In results made public today, regular sampling and genetic analysis of the virus showed that five of the nine patients developed at least one mutation seen in variants of concern. However, the authors cautioned that there are many situations in which these mutations arise, and that this evidence is only part of the picture of why variants of concern might arise.

First author, Dr Luke Blagdon Snell, of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, says said: “This provides evidence that mutations found in variants of concern do arise in immunocompromised patients and so supports the idea that new variants of the viruses may develop in immunocompromised individuals.

“It is important to note, however, that none of the individuals in our work developed new variants that became widespread variants of concern.”

Dr Gaia Nebbia, co-author, said: “Immunocompromised patients with persistent infection have poor outcomes, and new treatment strategies are urgently needed to clear their infection.”

As part of the Conference, Director of our Centre for Clinical Infection & Diagnostics Research, Professor Jonathan Edgeworth, will also be presenting the latest findings from our work with Oxford Nanopore to embed rapid nanopore pathogen sequencing technology in an NHS setting.

Previous research from this programme of work led by Professor Edgeworth has shown that the rapid, whole genome sequencing can successfully identify secondary infections for patients on intensive care in hours rather than days.

Professor Edgeworth will also be sharing further experiences from his research on embedding the technology in care. He will share its use in identifying ‘rare and resistant’ pathogens – those that are unexpected, and those that have antibiotic resistance genes.

The aim of the programme is to assess whether using this technology can enable clinicians to get fast results that help them to prescribe the right antibiotics. This could not only improve patient care, but potentially help to reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance, by reducing the number of unnecessary prescriptions.