Effect of Culture-Independent Diagnostic Tests on Future Emerging Infections Program Surveillance

Emerg Infect Dis. 2015 Sep;21(9):1582-8. doi: 10.3201/eid2109.150570.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Emerging Infections Program (EIP) network conducts population-based surveillance for pathogens of public health importance. Central to obtaining estimates of disease burden and tracking microbiological characteristics of these infections is accurate laboratory detection of pathogens. The use of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs) in clinical settings presents both opportunities and challenges to EIP surveillance. Because CIDTs offer better sensitivity than culture and are relatively easy to perform, their use could potentially improve estimates of disease burden. However, changes in clinical testing practices, use of tests with different sensitivities and specificities, and changes to case definitions make it challenging to monitor trends. Isolates are still needed for performing strain typing, antimicrobial resistance testing, and identifying other molecular characteristics of organisms. In this article, we outline current and future EIP activities to address issues associated with adoption of CIDTs, which may apply to other public health surveillance.

Keywords: EIP; Emerging Infections Program; antigen-based testing; culture-independent diagnostics; molecular testing; surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / diagnosis*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology
  • Culture Techniques
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / trends*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • United States / epidemiology