New Funding for Advanced Molecular Detection

Division of Bacterial Diseases (DBD) News Bulletin - Fall 2014

November 7, 2014: Content on this page kept for historical reasons.

In the spring of this year, DBD was awarded $2 million to launch 5 new projects using advanced molecular sequencing tools along with cutting-edge information technologies and bioinformatics. Funded proposals from DBD experts focus on using advanced molecular detection (AMD) to enable faster and more effective infectious disease prevention and control related to Bordetella pertussis, Legionella, Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and unexplained respiratory outbreaks:

Former RDB lab scientist Stephanie Mitchell transfers Legionella isolates from BCYE agar plates used to culture the bacteria.

Photo: Former RDB lab scientist Stephanie Mitchell transfers Legionella isolates from BCYE agar plates used to culture the bacteria.

  • The Bordetella pertussis Project will increase the understanding of the reemergence of pertussis in the United States. A recent analysis by CDC’s Pertussis and Diphtheria Laboratory showed that one vaccine antigen, pertactin, is now absent in at least 9 out of 10 isolates (specimens) collected in the United States. The lab plans to map the complete genome of historic and currently circulating strains of Bordetella pertussis to determine how the vaccine protects against these bacteria when pertactin is lacking and if genetic changes are contributing to the reemergence of pertussis.
  • CDC’s Pneumonia Response and Surveillance Laboratory is creating a database of Legionella genomes—a whole genome pipeline—to improve capacity for identifying outbreak-causing Legionella strains at a reduced cost. Over time, the pipeline will expand, such that isolating the bacteria from samples may no longer be necessary once a Legionella sample is collected. These new laboratory techniques will revolutionize how assessments are made about disease transmission, which is the cornerstone of controlling Legionella outbreaks.
  • CDC’s Meningitis Laboratory is conducting whole genome sequencing on African meningococci specimens (mostly serogroups X and Y) to compare these specimens to strains causing sporadic disease and outbreaks worldwide. Scientists will compare how closely related these strains are and determine markers for how likely they are to cause epidemics of disease. Complete genome sequencing will enable better and earlier prediction of meningococcal disease epidemics and provide information on the effectiveness of available vaccines.
  • CDC’s Streptococcus Laboratory will take advantage of data mining (searching large stores of data and analyzing for useful information) to learn if serotype replacement is occurring in cases of invasive pneumococcal disease (caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae) and if antibiotics remain effective. Investigating the bacteria’s whole genome sequence is a faster approach compared to conventional methods and offers higher quality results at reduced costs. This faster approach allows for predictions of promising vaccine candidate components while also detecting emergence of antibiotic-resistant mechanisms.
  • CDC is developing a new tool to aid Unexplained Respiratory Disease Outbreaks laboratory scientists in quickly identifying which pathogen, including novel and rare ones, is causing an outbreak. By using a single and quick analytic tool, scientists will be able to detect a wide variety of bacterial, viral, and fungal respiratory pathogens, as well as determine the specific strain responsible for an outbreak and if the strain is resistant to antibiotics.

Learn more about AMD.

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