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Training and Outreach

PulseNet Training: PFGE Laboratory, Software Analysis, and MLVA Training

The success of PulseNet depends on its members being properly trained in how to perform pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and analyze DNA fingerprint patterns using specialized software. As part of this effort, PulseNet USA at CDC (CDC PulseNet) and the Association of Public Health Laboratories provide training workshops for domestic and international PulseNet laboratory personnel.

Workshops are held at least once a year to meet participants’ needs and include:

  • Standardized Molecular Subtyping of Foodborne Bacterial Pathogens by Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis
  • BioNumerics Software Analysis Workshop for PulseNet Participants
  • Standardized MLVA Laboratory Training and Analysis

PFGE Laboratory

PFGE Laboratory Tech

One key to detecting foodborne outbreaks is that all PulseNet labs closely follow the PulseNet Standardized PFGE protocol to ensure that PFGE fingerprints from different labs are comparable. CDC PulseNet conducts multiple hands-on training on how to generate PFGE fingerprints each year. 

During the two and a half day training, trainees perform each step of the protocol using a practice set of bacterial isolates.  The training combines laboratory training with training in database analysis so that trainees can analyze the PFGE gels they generate.

From 2008-2012, CDC PulseNet trained 60 scientists (13 from international laboratories) in PFGE. These scientists returned to their home laboratories to become active participants in PulseNet.  CDC PulseNet staff made two visits to establish PFGE for the first time in new international PulseNet networks.

Software Analysis

Ascreen 13

The software analysis workshop provides participants with basic information for analyzing PFGE results using a highly customized software analysis program called BioNumerics. PulseNet uses BioNumerics, a software analysis program developed by Applied Maths, to analyze and manage the fingerprint patterns of PulseNet pathogens.

Workshop participants receive hands-on experience with the BioNumerics software using real-life scenarios, and learn how to use communication tools and proper procedures to upload bacterial isolate information and PFGE gel images to the national databases.

From 2008-2012, CDC PulseNet trained 84 scientists from 49 public health/regulatory laboratories in the software. These scientists returned to their home laboratories to become active participants in PulseNet.

MLVA Training

Each year PulseNet USA at CDC offers multiple locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) training workshops.  These two and a half day courses provide a unique lecture-based and hands-on experience for laboratory personnel interested in implementing MLVA in their labs. 

Classes are limited in size (max of 4/class) to ensure each participant has the opportunity to work one-on-one with instructors.  Topics covered include

  • A general overview of MLVA and its usefulness in foodborne surveillance
  • Hands-on laboratory exercises
  • Data analysis
  • Troubleshooting
  • MLVA certification
  • Quality assurance/quality control

From 2006-2012, CDC PulseNet trained over 50 scientists from 31 public health labs, 4 federal labs, and 2 international public health labs (Canada and Hong Kong) in MLVA.

PulseNet Outreach: Update meeting, Steering Committee, and PulseNet International

PulseNet Team

Annual PulseNet Update Meeting and Steering Committee

Every year PulseNet member laboratorians and database managers have the opportunity to present their work at the annual update meeting. This meeting is part of a larger conference, now called the Integrated Foodborne Outbreak Response and Management (InFORM) conference, that covers all aspects of enteric diseases important at state and local health departments.

During the update meeting the PulseNet steering committee, made up of scientists both from CDC and member labs, charts the course for PulseNet for the coming years. The steering committee also meets during quarterly conference calls, so that expert input continues to steer PulseNet into the future. 2013 marks the 17th annual update meeting.

International Outreach through PulseNet International

Flat dot matrix world map

PulseNet International is a great example of CDC One Health international efforts.

Foodborne infections are a global problem. International travel and the worldwide import and export of foods allow foodborne diseases from one country to cause infections in other parts of the world. PulseNet International was developed to confront these challenges.

PulseNet International is made up of 83 laboratories in 7 regions (Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East, and the USA) worldwide. PulseNet International’s mission is to save lives and to reduce social and economic burden linked to foodborne and waterborne infections.  

As part of PulseNet International Steering Committee, PulseNet USA scientists participate in building laboratory capacity for molecular surveillance of foodborne infections. CDC PulseNet collaborates with international scientists to develop, validate, and implement standardized subtyping methods through

  • onsite training in subtyping techniques,
  • support for development of surveillance methods, and
  • communication about international outbreaks.

PulseNet USA at CDC hosts many PulseNet International visitors and provides comprehensive molecular and epidemiological training. Ultimately, our goal is for laboratories worldwide share information in real-time to improve foodborne and waterborne diseases surveillance, notifications of emerging pathogens, and acts of bioterrorism.

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