PulseNet: The First Step in Identifying a Foodborne Outbreak
PulseNet Detects Outbreaks
PulseNet is a network of local and state public health laboratories that use a subtyping technique called Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE), also called DNA fingerprinting, to detect, investigate, and control outbreaks of foodborne infection. Subtyping allows scientists to see the differences between bacterial strains of the same species and monitor the trends of those bacteria. Results are communicated back to the labs that submitted the patterns and investigation details are posted to the PulseNet message board. Learn More
Not Just Food
In addition to foodborne outbreaks, PulseNet has also identified outbreaks due to bacteria carried by pet turtles, hedgehogs, animals at petting zoos, rodents, reptiles, and in animal food. Learn More
PulseNet Participants’ Role
PFGE patterns or “fingerprints” are generated in real-time and analyzed at the state, local, or federal laboratories. The public health laboratorians then enter this data into an electronic database of DNA fingerprints and submit the PFGE patterns immediately to the CDC so that national surveillance can be performed by the PulseNet team. Learn More
PulseNet at CDC
The PulseNet team at CDC compares fingerprint data submitted from across the country. They look for groups of matching patterns (clusters) with higher than normal incidence. By monitoring trends in PFGE patterns, the PulseNet team is able to rapidly identify increases in case submissions from across the US in real-time and quickly launch investigations into the cause of illnesses reported. These clusters of cases identified by PulseNet are investigated by epidemiologists and if links are found between cases, the cluster is classified as an outbreak. The results are reported back to the labs that submitted the patterns and posted to the PulseNet message board.
PulseNet, as a cluster detection tool, rapidly identifies potential outbreaks. The goals of PulseNet are to provide real-time surveillance of bacterial foodborne diseases and assist epidemiologists in investigating outbreaks. PulseNet also provides a rapid and effective means of communication between public health laboratories. Learn More
CDC Expert Commentaries on Medscape are part of a collaboration between CDC and Medscape. They are designed to deliver CDC's authoritative guidance directly to Medscape's physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals. The Division contributes regular Medscape commentaries on food safety and zoonoses.