Detection of Pathogens with Cell-free DNA

The significance of DNA, in addition to gene transfer, is due to its compact and precise form of storage. Unfortunately, as human beings age, DNA is stored less correctly, as shown by simple blood samples. Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) found in the blood, that is, DNA released into the bloodstream by suppressed cells, stores information about its former environment, thereby providing a biomarker of biological age.

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Recently, however, scientists at Cornell have discovered a way to use cfDNA to identify pathogens and tell whether a patient is sick or not (Nutt, 2019). The test is claimed to be safe, simple, fast, and cheap (Nutt, 2019). This discovery may have various implications for pathogen screening practice.

As new technologies bring new complexities, the innovative method for pathogen discovery and damage quantification may bring additional intricacies. The emergence of new methods also means that nurses must acquire additional knowledge to stay competitive. In terms of ethics, culture, and religion, however, the approach does not seem to have any implications because of the simplicity of the test. The method is yet to be approved by related regulating bodies to be publicly exercised, so there are some legal considerations as to who is authorized to perform the screening. The cost of conducting the test is low, and it is almost effortless (Li et al., 2019).

Thus, it will be accessible to a broad range of populations because it is going to be financially feasible. For a nurse, it would mean an increase in demand for health services. cfDNA can even be used to identify cancer in its early stages (Thierry et al., 2019). Eventually, it may become common practice in society to diagnose infectious diseases using this method.

Extracting and studying cfDNA not only led to breakthrough achievements in pathogen diagnosis but also replaced difficult and dangerous invasive methods, such as amniocentesis. The study by researchers at Cornell University may be one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century, because screenings may become even more accessible to the public. Further investigations, however, are required to study all of the details before making them available in health care delivery institutions.


Li, Z., Tang, H., Zhang, T., Liu, C., Zhu, S., Zhang, Y.,… Zhao, Z. (2019). Development and validation of urine cfDNA preservative kit for detection of genomic alterations in cancer. AACR Annual Meeting 2019, 79(13), 22-36.

Nutt, D. (2019). Cell-free DNA detects pathogens and quantifies damage. Cornell Chronicle. Web.

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Thierry, A. R., Tanos, R., Otandault, A., Mollevi, C., Bauer, A., Tousch, G.,… Jacot, W. (2019). Towards a screening test for cancer by circulating DNA analysis. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 37(15). Web.

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