CDC Disease Identification Tool Gets Major Upgrade

Federal regulators are expanding a disease identification tool, which offers doctors and clinicians a way to rapidly identify rare diseases and bacteria, a move that they believe will save thousands of lives.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a press release last week to announce that the MicrobeNet tool, designed by the agency and launched in 2003, will receive an upgrade that offers doctors a way to not only rapidly identify rare bacteria, but also detect disease outbreaks much quicker and offer a quicker response to the public.

MicrobeNet is an online tool that offers laboratories and doctors immediate access to the CDC’s virtual microbe library of more than 2,400 rare and emerging infectious bacteria and fungi at no cost.

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Hospitals and health departments using MicrobeNet are able to identify rare bacteria rapidly, as well as compare the results to the most comprehensive and accurate disease database available.

The new module added to MicrobeNet was developed in partnership with Bruker Corp, and allows labs to search protein signatures of the bacteria to compare to rare pathogens in the CDCs MicrobeNet library. The module works using Bruker’s MALDI Biotype systems. The CDC says it provides a very fast and cheap way to run the tests, compared to other types of testing.

The new module will be immediately available to laboratories and clinicians using the Bruker system nationwide. Prior to the addition of the new module, MicrobeNet offered two ways to search pathogens; by DNA sequence or biochemical tests.

According to the CDC, the new module could dramatically improve the health of people in the U.S. and worldwide, by cutting time for testing from a week to only a few hours. In the past, it took weeks to identify rare bacteria or fungi and could only be done after a doctor or lab sent a sample to the CDC and awaited results. Now, with MicrobeNet, the access is immediate.

Not only can doctors more accurately diagnose the causes of disease much faster and save lives, they are also saving time and money, CDC officials say.

The module was launched in 2013 by the Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology’s Special Bacteriology Reference Laboratory. In partnership with ThermoFisher, the CDC has also entered contact information for subject matter experts for every species of bacteria and fungi.

The module also allows two-way communication between users and the CDC. This allows state public health experts to monitor disease trends in their state in real time and recognize those trends might indicate an outbreak. It gives a snapshot of national disease trends to help identify multi-state outbreaks and offer information to public health partners in affected states.

With the MicrobeNet tool, hospitals and laboratories will no longer need to develop their own pathogen libraries. The information contained in the MicrobeNet library has been confirmed by CDC experts.

It will also provide doctors with information about which antibiotics the bacteria can resist. This helps make diagnosis and selecting the correct treatment much easier, reducing the risk of patients developing life-threatening drug-resistant infections.

Many rare and mostly unheard of bacteria can be serious threats to American lives. Streptobacillus moniliformis or Capnocytophaga can kill people within days if not treated quickly; yet many doctors and labs have never seen the bacteria and may mistake them for more common disease like meningitis.

“MicrobeNet has the potential to revolutionize public health,” said Dr. John R. McQuiston, team lead for CDC’s Special Bacteriology Reference Laboratory and MicrobeNet. “This system helps public health labs and hospitals quickly identify some of the most difficult pathogens to grow and detect.”


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