Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) and Response to Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Imagine putting together a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with the speed you could normally do a 100-piece puzzle—apply that to infectious disease control and that’s AMD at work. Now imagine, while disease is spreading and people are dying, trying to put a 10,000 piece puzzle together when key pieces are missing. That’s what many CDC scientists are struggling against today.
The AMD initiative proposed in the President’s 2014 Budget represents a major enhancement of CDC’s current microbiology and bioinformatics capabilities to find and stop deadly infectious disease outbreaks that threaten every American every day.
Investing in AMD would bring the U.S. public health system a more precise and accurate means to
- find smoldering disease outbreaks we are missing now
- find disease outbreaks faster to protect communities, and
- stop threats in our food supply
AMD at CDC would allow experts in infectious disease laboratory science, epidemiology and bioinformatics to join forces like never before to go from a hunch to certainty in record time to prevent illness and save lives.
The disease threat
Highly-resistant pathogens in health-care settings, killer microbes that jump from animals to humans, and new virulent pathogens emerging create constant concern.
- CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans—or 48 million people—get sick from contaminated food each year—costing the United States $77 billion per year in health care treatment, workplace, and other economic losses.
- Each year the flu costs businesses approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults. CDC needs to detect patterns more precisely for better vaccines.
- Five killer microbes (and counting) are nearly resistant to all available drug treatments.
CDC’s decades-old methods of detecting a microbe and understanding its lethality to humans will soon be obsolete.
The critical need for increased AMD capacity at CDC was clearly outlined in an internal report from a 2011 expert panel convened to review the status of CDC’s bioinformatics activities, identify gaps, and provide input on strategies for moving forward.
With support through the AMD initiative, CDC will be able to build critical molecular sequencing and bioinformatics capacities at national and state levels to take back the advantage in controlling infectious diseases.
- Enhancing AMD capacity means reducing diagnostic costs in the future. For example, states would no longer need to submit lab cultures to CDC to identify outbreak pathogens—a slow and less precise method.
- With AMD, CDC could rapidly look for a microbe’s match among the thousands of reference samples in its world-class microbe library.
- CDC will refine the use of new technologies to make them work smarter for public health and train others to use these tools to prevent and stop disease outbreaks.
The most important tools, of course, are the experts in the fields of epidemiology, laboratory science and bioinformatics. These experts need two important classes of tools: sequencing machines that can read the DNA or RNA code of a microbe and supercomputers that have the capacity to manage massive amounts of information with the software to intelligently detect patterns.