New Diagnostic Tests Could Hamper Tracking of Foodborne Illness

According to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the latest diagnostic tests for foodborne illness identify infections more quickly but could make detecting outbreaks more difficult.

So-called culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs) help doctors diagnose foodborne infections in a matter of hours because they do not depend on traditional bacterial culture techniques, which often take several days to complete.

Unfortunately, the absence of a bacterial culture makes it difficult to obtain detailed information from the bacteria responsible for the infection, such as genetic fingerprint and genome sequencing data.

CDC is concerned that the increasing use of CIDTs could compromise their ability to detect foodborne outbreaks, track foodborne disease trends and check for antibiotic resistant pathogens.

In the short term it is recommended that clinical laboratories ensure that culturing is done whenever a CIDT indicates a foodborne bacterial infection. In the longer term, CDC sees the solution as more advanced testing methods that provide the necessary data without a culture.

The report is published in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly and can be found in full here.