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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Minnesota’s public health lab to play key role in national fight against antibiotic resistance

The Minnesota Department of Health's Public Health Laboratory has been named one of seven new regional laboratories that will become part of a new national Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network (ARLN), according to an announcement today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The move gives Minnesota a key role in helping the nation come to grips with one of the 21st century's most pressing public health threats.

The ARLN is being formed in response to President Obama's call for a national action plan for combatting antibiotic resistant bacteria and is part of a broad effort to improve all states' abilities to detect and fight antibiotic resistance.

The regional labs were selected in part on past performance and overall high quality of work. They will help track changes in antibiotic resistance and help identify outbreaks by providing technical support to other local and state health departments in their region.

Minnesota will coordinate the Central Region, which includes Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas. Other regional labs will be located in Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

"It is an honor for our state's public health laboratory to be chosen as a regional lab for this effort," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger. "It speaks to the great skill of our laboratory staff and the work they have done over the years."

A national network of laboratories with extra capacity to work on antibiotic resistance issues has long been a goal of those in the forefront of efforts to fight antibiotic resistance, said MDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. 

"Being able to detect and identify emerging antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria quickly and accurately is essential to prevent the spread of these strains and a key strategy in our work to combat antibiotic resistant infections," Dr. Lynfield said.

When highly antibiotic-resistant organisms or outbreaks associated with antibiotic resistant bacteria are detected within health care facilities, or by state and local labs, the MDH lab and other regional labs will provide support where needed to analyze the organism and support the response. The regional labs will ensure more consistent and improved communication, coordination and tracking at all levels—across health care facilities, local and state health departments, and CDC.

The ARLN regional labs will work together with CDC and state and local health department labs to:

  • Detect new resistance in bacteria and provide better big-picture trend tracking to create pathogen-specific solutions and support national public health strategies.
  • Inform outbreak response when antibiotic resistance threats like carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are reported, working together with state and local labs.
  • Prevent and combat future antibiotic resistance threats by generating and sharing better data.
  • Support innovations in antibiotic and diagnostic development. Samples from the labs will be made available through the CDC's AR Isolate Bank, which researchers can use to develop earlier diagnoses and more effective treatment options.

The regional labs will also conduct special threat assessments, as requested, for antibiotic resistant threats identified by CDC.

"Not only will this effort enhance our ability to help in the nation's fight against antibiotic resistance, but it will aid our efforts to advance our One Health antibiotic stewardship initiative in Minnesota," Lynfield said. "Being able to detect antibiotic pathogens is essential to track trends and inform public health interventions."

CDC is providing $67 million to help health departments nationwide tackle antibiotic resistance and other patient safety threats, including healthcare-associated infections through CDC's Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity grants. MDH expects to receive approximately $2.7 million to support the laboratory's ARLN activities.

More details about the regional lab networks can be found on the CDC website at National Action Plan for the Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (PDF).

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