CDC Publicizes Online Tool to Help Diagnose Disease

The online system allows providers in the field to match unidentified microbes with CDC's pathogen library in a matter of hours. In the past, it could take up to a week to make a positive identification.

With concerns about the Zika virus speading to the United States, CDC is highlighting the availability of an online tool that can help doctors and lab personnel identify rarer diseases they might not see every day.

MicrobeNet, available since 2013, gives local providers access to CDC’s virtual microbe library, which covers more than 2400 rare infections, including emerging diseases. The tool is available for free. The CDC highlighted a recent outbreak of Elizabethkingia in 3 Midwestern states as proof that this online tool is essential.

Also, CDC announced a new module for MicrobeNet that searches protein signatures from suspect bacteria and matches them with CDC’s library using Bruker Corp.’s MALDI Biotyper system. The technology cuts time and cost from the process of matching the suspect pathogen to existing samples; previously, identification was done through DNA sequencing or other biochemical tests. The change means a diagnosis come within hours, rather than up to a week.

"MicrobeNet has the potential to revolutionize public health," said John R. McQuiston, PhD, team lead for CDC's Special Bacteriology Reference Laboratory and CDC's lead for MicrobeNet. "This system helps public health labs and hospitals quickly identify some of the most difficult pathogens to grow and detect. In turn, MicrobeNet will help treat patients faster and allow health departments to respond to public health emergencies more effectively.”

The new system allow communication between providers across the country and CDC staff who are experts in the diseases being searched. State public health officials can now more easily track trends and spot outbreaks.

MicrobeNet also saves money by eliminating the need for labs to develop their own pathogen libraries. For many diseases, the system also lets providers know if the germ is already resistant to any antiobiotics.

For information on MicrobeNet, click here