Typing methods for discriminating different bacterial isolates of the same species are essential epidemiological tools in infection prevention and control. Traditional typing systems based on phenotypes, such as serotype, biotype, phage-type, or antibiogram, have been used for many years. However, more recent methods that examine the relatedness of isolates at a molecular level have revolutionised our ability to differentiate among bacterial types and subtypes. Importantly, the development of molecular methods has provided new tools for enhanced surveillance and outbreak detection. This has resulted in better implementation of rational infection control programmes and efficient allocation of resources across Europe. The emergence of benchtop sequencers using next generation sequencing technology makes bacterial whole genome sequencing (WGS) feasible even in small research and clinical laboratories. WGS has already been used for the characterisation of bacterial isolates in several large outbreaks in Europe and, in the near future, is likely to replace currently used typing methodologies due to its ultimate resolution. However, WGS is still too laborious and time-consuming to obtain useful data in routine surveillance. Also, a largely unresolved question is how genome sequences must be examined for epidemiological characterisation. In the coming years, the lessons learnt from currently used molecular methods will allow us to condense the WGS data into epidemiologically useful information. On this basis, we have reviewed current and new molecular typing methods for outbreak detection and epidemiological surveillance of bacterial pathogens in clinical practice, aiming to give an overview of their specific advantages and disadvantages.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2013|