As a response to the growing global and national threat of antibiotic resistance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established a network of labs whose sole mission is to help detect, prevent, contain and respond to outbreaks of antibiotic resistant pathogens. Today's post will explore this mission and how it is implemented.
The CDC currently funds and administers many programs to help stem the tide of antibiotic resistance in the United States. Collectively, these programs fall under the AR Solutions Initiative, a national infrastructure of laboratories, agencies, and outreach programs that aim to detect, prevent, contain and respond to outbreaks. One of those programs is a network of 56 laboratories throughout the nation, as well as 7 regional labs and 1 national tuberculosis molecular surveillance center, which together form the Antibiotic Resistance Lab Network, or ARLAB.
These labs, spread geographically throughout the US and Puerto Rico, aim to provide rapid detection of resistant pathogens through high capacity as well as the most advanced technologies, including rapid genome sequencing. When a pathogen is sent for identification, the lab can quickly identify its species, its antibiotic susceptibility, and provide individualized outbreak response steps for each locality impacted. The network also allows for national coordination, helping support containment and educational efforts across state lines. The data that the labs collect informs all future outbreaks, meaning responses get better and better all the time.
Innovation is also important to the ARLAB Network. The labs collect isolates that become a part of a national library of samples (the AR Isolate Bank) that can be used by researchers as they develop diagnostics and treatments. Collaborations with academic institutions and healthcare systems also help pave the way for quicker responses and better outbreak tracking methods.
The ARLAB Network accomplishes its mission through collaboration with local and state public health departments, academia, and healthcare industry partners. Their work allows an individual facility to benefit from the experiences of hundreds of other hospitals, while giving them access to the advanced technology a small hospital may not be able to afford. In addition, the network allows the data from an outbreak at a single hospital to benefit hundreds of others in the nation and around the world, not only through the addition of new isolates, but also the lessons learned during the outbreak response. The ARLAB Network is truly a way to make healthcare act locally but think globally.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.