DETROIT — Michigan’s state laboratory is taking center stage in the country’s fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis with the creation of a tuberculosis surveillance center.

The National Tuberculosis Molecular Surveillance Center opened at the State of Michigan Laboratory last month, The Detroit News reported.

It’ll identify the genetic footprint of each new TB case in the U.S. so scientists can better track the disease and prevent its spread.

Bacterial cultures from all confirmed TB cases across the country will be sent to the lab for whole genome sequencing. Scientists will use special equipment to determine the exact sequence of millions of bits of genetic material contained in the TB bacterium.

James Posey, an applied research team leader within the CDC’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, said the aggregated data will provide a better picture of tuberculosis across the country.

“This is going to allow us to do a level of surveillance on drug resistance which we’ve never been able to do in the United States on a national level,” Posey said.

Whole genome sequencing will allow scientists to track TB strains by their genetic signatures and look for variations or mutations that can result in new drug-resistant strains. Posey said they couldn’t do so with the current genotypic susceptibility testing.

“Now we’re going to have a molecular surveillance to determine what (strains) are circulating in the communities to predict what drug resistance is there,” he said. “In some of the (previous) cases, some tests missed what is called low-level, drug-resistance strains whereas molecular tests can actually detect those.”

The center is funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/