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PulseNet: Entering the Age of Next-Generation Sequencing
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    Since 1996, PulseNet has served as the national laboratory-based surveillance system for the rapid detection of outbreaks caused by foodborne bacterial pathogens in the United States. For the past two decades, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis was the gold standard subtyping method for the pathogens tracked by PulseNet. A new gold standard is now being implemented with the introduction of cost-effective whole genome sequencing (WGS) for analysis of all the organisms tracked by PulseNet. This transformation is a major undertaking that touches every functional aspect of PulseNet, including laboratory workflows, data storage, analysis management and data interpretation, and language used to communicate information (sequence profile nomenclature system). The benefits of implementing WGS go beyond improved discrimination and precision of the data; it provides an opportunity to determine strain characteristics typically obtained through resource-intensive traditional methodologies, for example, species identification, serotyping, virulence, and antimicrobial resistance profiling, all of which can be consolidated into a single WGS workflow. Such a strategy represents a major shift in the workflows currently practiced in most public health laboratories, but one that brings opportunities for streamlining surveillance activities for the network as a whole. In this study, we provide a brief summary of PulseNet's evolution the past decade along with a general description of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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