Part of the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) Global Disease and Detection Program’s (GDDRP) mission is to conduct disease outbreak investigations. NAMRU-3’s Myriam Morcos, a molecular biology technologist, recently trained scientists from the Iraq Ministry of Health on PulseNet, a tool to assist epidemiologists determine where outbreaks are in days rather than weeks.
“NAMRU-3’s role in Pulsenet Middle East is exemplary. We have the equipment and facilities that enable us to provide training and we are here to assist,” said Morcos, who recently received an award from CDC for her training accomplishments in the region. “This training is a good start for Iraq, which will need to get the correct machines to implement the program.”
The five Iraqi trainees came from different scientific backgrounds, but all were extremely interested and applied themselves to learn both aspects of the program. The training focused on this interactive network for foodborne disease surveillance. PulseNet comprises two concepts – the use of pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) on disease-causing bacteria isolated from patients and bionumeric software
data analysis. PFGE is done by following standardized procedures strictly developed by CDC. The results are run on an electrophoresis machine that deals with large molecular size DNA to produce patterns that are “fingerprints” of isolates. The machine generates patterns and these images are uploaded to bionumerics and databases are created. If epidemiological links are found between cases, then a cluster is classified as an outbreak.
NAMRU-3 worked with WHO for over six months to arrange for the Iraqi scientists to come to NAMRU-3. Although Iraq is not a member of PulseNet, representatives participated in yearly collaborative meetings where refresher training was given. Morcos is the technical focal point for Pulsenet Middle East (PNME), headquartered in Oman. Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Kuwait and Iran currently participate in the program. She has been training laboratorians from these countries since 2007.
Article courtesy of NAMRU-3 and the Naval Medical Research Center.