1. Rapid Molecular diagnostics

Genetic markers are used to identify the microrganisms, or bugs, that cause disease and to tell them apart from other microorganisms that do not cause illness. Rapid molecular diagnostic tests detect the specific genetic markers of the microorganisms that cause diarrhoea and vomiting.

Faecal (stool) samples from patients in primary care will be tested at one of three NHS laboratories (Liverpool, Manchester, Preston) using a commercially available, approved, rapid molecular testing system. This system detects most of the microorganisms that cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and gives results within 24 hours. All of the samples will also be tested using the current routine, traditional laboratory tests. The results of the traditional tests will be compared with the results of the rapid molecular tests to evaluate the new approach.

All test results will be reported to General Practitioners to inform each patient’s treatment, and to Public Health England. Public Health England will take any public health action that is needed. The results will also be sent to a new statistical system, AEGISS2, based at Lancaster University and developed for this study. AEGISS2 is designed to detect outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting in the community.

2. State of the art microbial genomics and metagenomics

Microbial genomics and metagenomics are leading edge/ground breaking research methods that determine the whole of the genetic code of a microorganism. The Centre for Genomic Research, University of Liverpool uses these research methods and will apply them in this study:

  • To the microorganisms detected by the rapid molecular diagnostic tests described above and to develop new methods for rapid identification and typing of microorganisms. These new methods will then improve how outbreaks of disease are recognised.
  • Directly to faecal (stool) samples to search for and identify new microorganisms that could cause disease.