Surveillance of circulating drug resistant bacteria is essential for healthcare providers to deliver effective empiric antibiotic therapy. However, the results of surveillance may not be available on a timescale that is optimal for guiding patient treatment. Here we present a method for inferring characteristics of an unknown bacterial sample by identifying the presence of sequence variation across the genome that is linked to a phenotype of interest, in this case drug resistance. We demonstrate an implementation of this principle using sequence k-mer content, matched to a database of known genomes. We show this technique can be applied to data from an Oxford Nanopore device in real time and is capable of identifying the presence of a known resistant strain in 5 minutes, even from a complex metagenomic sample. This flexible approach has wide application to pathogen surveillance and may be used to greatly accelerate diagnoses of resistant infections.

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