What kind of typing activities are important in public health?
Infectious diseases control relies on laboratory diagnostics. Pathogen identification and characterisation guides clinicians and public health workers in implementing appropriate treatment and preventive measures. If further details about the pathogen are required, a process, referred to as “typing,” is used to obtain this information by specialised laboratory assays.
There are a number of reasons why it may be essential to use typing techniques:
- to investigate an outbreak of an infectious disease, for example - to establish an association between food poisoning and a specific foodstuff
- to study pathogenicity, virulence and antibiotic resistance of individual strains within a species
- to monitor circulating strains for vaccine purposes
There are 2 basic ways to describe typing methods based on:
- observable physical or biochemical properties (phenotyping)
- composition of genetic material (genotyping)
Genotyping is based on molecular methods, it allows the highest resolution within microbial species and even within individual strains. With continued advancements in technology and applications to public health, molecular typing will offer new insights into dynamics of infectious diseases.
ECDC role in typing is to foster the development of sufficient capacity for diagnosis, detection, identification and characterization of agents which may threaten public health (ECDC founding regulation 851/2004). To achieve this, the centre shall collect, collate, evaluate and disseminate relevant scientific and technical data, including typing information.
Appropriate typing method and purpose vary between different pathogens. ECDC projects involving typing must have a clear public health value, including improving data comparability between different laboratories, training initiatives, and considerations of access and cost effectiveness.