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MicrobeNet: CDC expanding groundbreaking disease identification tool (2016-07-12)

Everyone has heard of common germs like E.coli or influenza, but what about Streptobacillus moniliformis or Capnocytophaga? If not treated quickly, both can kill people within days. But they are so rare that doctors and labs probably have never seen them and may mistake them for more common diseases like meningitis.
Enter MicrobeNet, an innovative online tool designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that, since 2013, has helped laboratorians and doctors get the information they need to accurately diagnose causes of disease faster and save lives.

MicrobeNet is a free online database of rare and unusual pathogens that is curated by CDC experts.
MicrobeNet provides laboratorians with unprecedented access to CDC's virtual microbe library of more than 2,400 rare and emerging infectious bacteria and fungi at no cost.
CDC launched MicrobeNet in 2013 with a goal of helping hospitals and public health laboratories improve reference diagnostics and speed up species identification, regardless of the level of technology of the laboratory.

MicrobeNet provides detailed information on hundreds of species of rare and emerging bacteria and fungi. For example:

  • Genetic sequence information

  • Biochemical characterization (what enzymes and nutrients does the pathogen use)

  • Morphological characterization (how does the pathogen grow: size, shape, and color of colonies)

  • Antibiotic resistance profiles.

In partnership with Bruker Corp., CDC has recently added a new module to MicrobeNet that allows labs to search the protein signatures of the bacteria and compare them to the rare pathogens in CDC's MicrobeNet library by using Bruker's MALDI Biotyper systems. Using MALDI to test is extremely fast and cheaper to run than many other types of testing, making the technology increasingly popular among labs.

The new MicrobeNet module will be immediately available to laboratorians and clinicians using the Bruker system in labs nationwide. Until the addition of the MALDI library, MicrobeNet offered two ways to search pathogens: by DNA sequence or biochemical tests (chemical reactions caused by the bacteria).

MicrobeNet can dramatically improve the health of people in the United States and around the world by cutting the time for testing from about a week to a few hours.

In addition to being faster, using the MALDI module in MicrobeNet offers dramatic cost savings for clinical and public health laboratories because they no longer will need to develop their own pathogen libraries. These laboratories will also have the assurance that their information has been confirmed by CDC experts. In addition, for many germs, MicrobeNet provides doctors with information about which antibiotics the bacteria are resistant to. By quickly identifying the species of bacteria, lab staff can pass this critical information to the doctors who can use it to help make a diagnosis and select the right treatment, thus reducing the risk of their patients developing drug-resistant infections.

The database includes standardized procedures for growing pathogens and for conducting diagnostic assays. MicrobeNet can also be used as an interactive teaching tool in microbiology classrooms.

Users can search the database in three ways:

  • Search by genetic sequence using 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing, which is a well-established method to compare and identify bacteria.

  • Search by phenotype based on biochemical analysis (more than 190 tests) and morphological characterization (size, shape, and color of colonies) as well as antibiotic resistance profiles.

  • Search by protein profile using protein profiles generated by MALDI-TOF MS (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry) instruments.

For more information
What Is MicrobeNet?