CDC Using Advanced Technology to Detect Foodborne Disease Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its public health partners in all 50 states are tracking and classifying foodborne illness in a new way, using advanced technology called whole genome sequencing (WGS) to detect and stop outbreaks and combat drug-resistant bacteria. PulseNet, the national network of laboratories that detects outbreaks of foodborne disease, moved to this new gold standard on July 15.

Public health scientists use sequencing information to compare bacteria making people sick and identify foodborne outbreaks. WGS information can also tell us why some foodborne bacteria make people more sick or are more resistant to antibiotics.

Detailed WGS information allows disease detectives to link cases of illness, determine which people are part of an outbreak, and find sources of infection with greater precision than with older DNA fingerprinting methods. By comparing WGS results for foodborne bacteria, public health scientists can better understand how these harmful bacteria reach our food supply. WGS information has helped solve outbreaks caused by Listeria, and now PulseNet is using WGS to solve outbreaks caused by other harmful foodborne bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and disease-causing E. coli.

CDC and public health partners are committed to using the latest technology to detect, investigate, and stop outbreaks linked to contaminated foods and animal contact.
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For more information, read a special issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease on PulseNet and how WGS improves the ability to detect foodborne illness.
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