Molecular Subtyping in Vermont

The Vermont Department of Health Laboratory is a participant in the PulseNet program.

PulseNet is a program that was developed and is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). PulseNet is a function of all 50 state public health laboratories, as well as USDA, FDA, and international public health labs.

Goals of PulseNet

  • Detect foodborne disease case clusters by DNA fingerprinting
  • Facilitate early identification of common source outbreaks
  • Allow for real-time communication among state, local health departments, and international partners
  • Help food regulatory agencies identify areas where implementation of new measures is likely to increase the safety of our food supply, including food recalls when necessary

How PulseNet Works in Vermont

  • A clinical laboratory submits a PulseNet qualified organism (e.g. Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter) to the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory, or the organism may be isolated at the Laboratory from a stool specimen submitted for enteric screening.
  • A microbiologist at the Laboratory uses molecular techniques to make a “DNA fingerprint” for each organism.
  • The fingerprint is compared to fingerprints of other organisms received by the Laboratory.
  • If there is a match, Health Department epidemiologists will conduct interviews with the patients involved to try and find a common cause of infection.
  • Images of the DNA fingerprints are uploaded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and compared to other organism DNA fingerprints both nationally and internationally.
  • If a match is detected, Vermont Department of Health epidemiologists work with epidemiologists from other states and/or countries to try and find a common cause of infection and prevent further outbreaks.