New Infectious Diseases Surveillance System Flags Outbreaks Faster

New Infectious Diseases Surveillance System Flags Outbreaks Faster

A new infectious diseases surveillance system developed by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has successfully identified cases of a drug-resistant infection spread by eye drops months before it was officially recognized by national health officials. The technology, known as the Enhanced Detection System for Healthcare-Associated Transmission (EDS-HAT), uses whole genome sequencing to detect and track the spread of pathogens within hospital settings.

The system works by analyzing the genetic fingerprints of pathogens found in patient samples. When the genetic code from two different patients closely matches, it indicates either direct transmission between the patients or a common source of infection, suggesting an outbreak. By using this technology, hospitals can quickly identify and respond to outbreaks, potentially preventing them from spreading further.

The University of Pittsburgh’s EDS-HAT program is currently the only hospital-based system in the United States that utilizes whole genome sequencing for surveillance purposes. In a recent case, the program detected an outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which was linked to the use of contaminated artificial tears. The outbreak had not been officially recognized at the time, but through whole genome sequencing, the researchers were able to match the genetic code with samples stored in their database, confirming the outbreak.

This case highlights the potential of whole genome sequencing surveillance in detecting and stopping outbreaks before they become widespread. If more hospitals adopt similar technologies and share their data with each other and public health authorities, the spread of infectious diseases could be halted on a national scale.

The University of Pittsburgh researchers were also able to trace the origins of the drug-resistant bacteria to contaminated eye drops that were likely manufactured in late 2021 or early 2022. The findings emphasize the need for improved surveillance and quality control measures in manufacturing facilities to prevent the contamination of medical products.

In conclusion, the EDS-HAT program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has demonstrated the effectiveness of whole genome sequencing in detecting and responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases. By implementing similar surveillance systems in hospitals nationwide, the early detection and intervention of outbreaks can be achieved, potentially saving lives and preventing the spread of drug-resistant infections.

– The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2023; jiad318 DOI:

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