Culture-Independent Diagnostics for Health Security

Health Secur. May-Jun 2016;14(3):122-42. doi: 10.1089/hs.2015.0074.


The past decade has seen considerable development in the diagnostic application of nonculture methods, including nucleic acid amplification-based methods and mass spectrometry, for the diagnosis of infectious diseases. The implications of these new culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs) include bypassing the need to culture organisms, thus potentially affecting public health surveillance systems, which continue to use isolates as the basis of their surveillance programs and to assess phenotypic resistance to antimicrobial agents. CIDTs may also affect the way public health practitioners detect and respond to a bioterrorism event. In response to a request from the Department of Homeland Security, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cosponsored a workshop to review the impact of CIDTs on the rapid detection and identification of biothreat agents. Four panel discussions were held that covered nucleic acid amplification-based diagnostics, mass spectrometry, antibody-based diagnostics, and next-generation sequencing. Exploiting the extensive expertise available at this workshop, we identified the key features, benefits, and limitations of the various CIDT methods for providing rapid pathogen identification that are critical to the response and mitigation of a bioterrorism event. After the workshop we conducted a thorough review of the literature, investigating the current state of these 4 culture-independent diagnostic methods. This article combines information from the literature review and the insights obtained at the workshop.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biosurveillance / methods*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing*
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques / methods*
  • Public Health Surveillance / methods*