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Special Bacteriology Reference Laboratory (SBRL)

Laboratory Activities

The Special Bacteriology Reference Laboratory (SBRL) provides reference services for the following unusual, rare, or novel Gram-positive or Gram-negative bacteria:

  • Aerobic Actinomycetes (E.g., Nocardia spp., Streptomyces spp.)
  • Fastidious bacteria (E.g., Capnocytophaga spp.)
  • Gram-positive rods (E.g., Corynebacterium spp. EXCEPT C. diphtheria)
  • Gram-negative non-fermentative rods (E.g., Stenotrophomonas spp.)

SBRL is comprised of three laboratory units (Actinomycetes Unit, Unusual Pathogens Unit, and Genomics Unit) that collaborate closely to provide state-of-the-art reference identification of these bacteria. Note that SBRL does not provide services for select agents (e.g., Bacillus anthracis, Brucella species, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia pseudomallei), anaerobic bacteria, or culture-negative specimens derived from putative bacterial infections.

Actinomycetes Unit (DASH Unit #38)

Works on the identification of:

  • Nocardioform bacteria
    • E.g., Nocardia sp.
  • Filamentous/branching Gram-positive bacteria
    • E.g., Streptomyces sp.
  • NOTE: This Unit performs antimicrobial susceptibility testing services for aerobic actinomycetes according to CLSI guidelines upon request.

Unusual Pathogens Unit (DASH Unit #17)

Works on the identification of:

  • Gram-positive rods
    • E.g., Corynebacterium sp. (Except C. diphtheria)
  • Gram-negative non-fermentative rods
    • E.g., Stenotrophomonas sp.
  • Fastidious bacteria
    • E.g., Capnocytophaga sp.
  • NOTE This Unit does not provide susceptibility testing services.

Genomics Unit

Works on the molecular characterization of bacteria submitted to either the Actinomycetes Unit or the Unusual Pathogens Unit, or other Units within CDC.

General Methodology

Reference identification of pure bacterial isolates is the primary activity provided by SBRL. A multi-faceted identification approach includes macro- and microscopic assessment of cultures, traditional biochemical testing, and sequencing of ribosomal and other DNA targets.

Shipping Isolates

All isolates for analysis by SBRL should be sent and processed through the state public health laboratory. Pure bacterial isolates should be grown on solid media in tightly sealed containers (e.g., slants) and sent through the CDC DASH system using the specimen submission form. Isolates for the Actinomycetes Unit should be sent to DASH unit #38, and isolates for the Unusual Pathogens Unit should be sent to DASH unit #17.

The shipping address for the DASH system is:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Data & Specimen Handling Section (DASH)
Mailstop G12
1600 Clifton Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30329-4027

Additional Information

If additional information is needed about the reference activities performed at SBRL, please call 1-800-CDC-INFO or 1-800-232-4636.