How does MicrobeNet work?

Scientist holds up growth plates and examines the growth pattern of an unknown isolate.

Step 1: Lab has an unknown isolate and grows it on agar growth plates for morphological characterization (size, shape, and color of colonies).

Rack of tubes for a biochemical panel.

Step 2: Lab performs its standard biochemical panel.

Scientist looking at a computer screen showing test results.

Step 3: Lab performs DNA analysis (16S genetic sequence).

Picture of a virtual tube rack created in MicrobeNet and a list of tests for the biochemical panel shown on the left.

Step 4: Laboratory scientist logs into MicrobeNet, opens a new project, selects appropriate results of biochemical analysis from the available list of more than 190 commonly used reference diagnostic tests and enters other data available (morphology, antimicrobial resistance).

Picture of a screen shot from MicrobeNet performing a genetic sequence search using a toll called BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool).

Step 5: If 16S genetic sequence analysis was performed, laboratory scientist can directly copy and paste the results of the analysis into MicrobeNet to find matching sequences using a tool called BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool).

Picture of a screen shot from MicrobeNet showing top 5 results and a list of recommended next tests on the right.

Step 6: MicrobeNet comes up with a list of closest matches based on the provided input and suggests further tests if the results don’t match or are inconclusive.

CDC scientist talking on the phone and reviewing a book during a consultation of MicrobeNet results.

Step 7: Laboratory scientist can consult CDC experts to help with identification.

three doctors consulting

Final Step: Once the pathogen is identified, the laboratory scientist can provide information to the patient’s doctor, and this information can help the doctor make the right diagnosis and give the appropriate treatment.

MicrobeNet can help identify a rare pathogen based on a few inexpensive, readily available, and regularly performed biochemical tests more accurately than methods laboratories currently use, such as instrument-based or self-made pathogen databases and libraries that may not include all rare and dangerous pathogens, thus often missing the correct identification and giving a wrong result. MicrobeNet’s library is populated with all data available on many pathogens from the CDC’s collection of rare microbes, including pictures, biochemical panel results, 16S rRNA sequence information, and eventually whole genome sequences and protein profiles.

To improve the reproducibility of the results, MicrobeNet contains information about standard procedures developed by CDC scientists that describe how to grow the pathogens and how to best test for them. This reduces the length of time needed to identify pathogens because the lab does not need to ship samples to CDC’s laboratory or wait for the analysis. This saves laboratories both time and money.

Public health laboratories anywhere in the world are able to run diagnostic tests and match their results against CDC’s unique collection of pathogens. These are often microbes that cause serious disease, but are difficult to grow, test for, and identify. MicrobeNet provides a reliable way for laboratories to quickly and correctly identify rare pathogens regardless of the level of technology in the diagnostic laboratory.