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Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD)

Imagine putting together a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with the speed you could normally do a 100-piece puzzle—apply that to infectious disease control and that’s AMD at work. Now imagine, while disease is spreading and people are dying, trying to put a 10,000 piece puzzle together when key pieces are missing. That’s what many CDC scientists are struggling against today.

AMD in Action

Whole Genome Sequencing Pinpoints Single Case and Potential New Listeria Source

Woman eating a saladIn routine food testing, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found Listeria in bagged lettuce. Investigators conducted whole genome sequencing and found one of the closest matches between an infected person and a contaminated food product that they had ever seen.

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A New Landscape for Combatting Infectious Diseases

Photo of person in a laboratory setting

Advances in science and technology aimed at identifying the complete genetic makeup of microorganisms are ushering in a new era for controlling infectious threats. By using genetic sequencing to examine infectious pathogens, these technologies are on the verge of revolutionizing our ability to diagnose infectious diseases, investigate and control outbreaks, understand transmission patterns, develop and target vaccines, and determine antimicrobial resistance—all with increased timeliness and accuracy and decreased costs.

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The AMD initiative funded at $30M in FY 14 and included in the President’s 2015 budget represents a major enhancement of CDC’s current microbiology and bioinformatics capabilities to find and stop deadly infectious disease outbreaks that threaten every American every day.

Investing in AMD will bring the U.S. public health system a more precise and accurate means to

  1. find smoldering disease outbreaks we are missing now
  2. find disease outbreaks faster to protect communities, and
  3. stop threats in our food supply

AMD at CDC will allow experts in infectious disease laboratory science, epidemiology and bioinformatics to join forces like never before to go from a hunch to certainty in record time to prevent illness and save lives.

The disease threat

Highly resistant pathogens in health-care settings, killer microbes that jump from animals to humans, and emerging virulent pathogens create constant concern.

  • CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans—or 48 million people—get sick from contaminated food each year—costing the United States $77 billion per year in health care treatment, workplace, and other economic losses.
  • Each year the flu costs businesses approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults. CDC needs to detect patterns more precisely for better vaccines.
  • Five killer microbes (and counting) are nearly resistant to all available drug treatments.
CDC’s decades-old methods of detecting a microbe and understanding its lethality to humans will soon be obsolete.

The critical need for increased AMD capacity at CDC was clearly outlined in an internal report from a 2011 expert panel convened to review the status of CDC’s bioinformatics activities, identify gaps, and provide input on strategies for moving forward.

AMD Initiative

With support through the AMD initiative, CDC will be able to build critical molecular sequencing and bioinformatics capacities at national and state levels to take back the advantage in controlling infectious diseases.

  • Enhancing AMD capacity means reducing diagnostic costs in the future. For example, states would no longer need to submit lab cultures to CDC to identify outbreak pathogens—a slow and less precise method.
  • With AMD, CDC could rapidly look for a microbe’s match among the thousands of reference samples in its world-class microbe library.
  • CDC will refine the use of new technologies to make them work smarter for public health and train others to use these tools to prevent and stop disease outbreaks.

The most important tools, of course, are the experts in the fields of epidemiology, laboratory science and bioinformatics. These experts need two important classes of tools: sequencing machines that can read the DNA or RNA code of a microbe and supercomputers that have the capacity to manage massive amounts of information with the software to intelligently detect patterns.

Public health experts need the right tools at the right time to protect Americans from microbes that are growing more fierce and moving faster than ever among us.
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