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ARTICLE

The Changing Landscape of Tracking Infectious Diseases

OCT 24, 2016 | NICOLA M. PARRY, BVSC, MRCVS, MSC, DIPACVP
In a webinar on clinical diagnostics and tracking infectious diseases, presented on October 18, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a panel of speakers discussed how culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs) are changing the landscape of diagnosing infectious diseases. 
 
CIDTs provide a new method for diagnosing infections, and are frequently used to identify food-borne illness. Although culture has been the focus of diagnostic testing for food-borne pathogens for the past several decades, this technique may take two or three days to produce a result. As a consequence, many clinical laboratories are now adopting culture-independent methods. These newer tests detect the presence of a specific genetic sequence or antigen of a pathogen, and produce results much faster than culture testing does.
 
According to Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, CIDTs allow clinicians to determine which pathogen is causing disease in a patient—often when the patient is still in the healthcare facility. 

The Impact of Culture-independent Diagnostic Testing in Food-borne Diseases 

Discussing the effect of CIDTs in food-borne diseases, Chris Braden, MD, Deputy Director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, highlighted a major expansion in availability of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) panels. These tests use real-time amplification methods and can facilitate simultaneous detection of multiple pathogens, and are often designed around disease syndromes, such as gastrointestinal infections, said Dr Braden.
 
CIDT use is increasing, and, for enteric infections, this increased uptake also varies by pathogen. Use of CIDTs may also affect surveillance trends. For example, Dr Braden noted that the increased incidence of infections with Cryptosporidium and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in 2015 might be due, at least in part, to greater use of CIDTs.
 


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