Foodborne illnesses do not respect any borders. As a result of increasing international trade, food produced in one country may be consumed in a different part of the world and cause disease if contaminated with a foodborne pathogen. Similarly, international travel is increasing and it is possible to get to almost any destination from almost any place in the world in a matter of hours. Therefore, a disease contracted in one part of the world may first become come apparent thousands of miles away. PulseNet International is a network of networks dedicated to track foodborne infections worldwide.


Worldwide regional and national laboratory networks utilizing standardized genotyping methods and sharing information in real-time to enhance surveillance and provide early warning of food and waterborne disease outbreaks, emerging pathogens, and acts of bioterrorism.


To save lives and reduce global, social, and economic losses due to food and waterborne diseases.


To participate in the investigation of outbreaks of foodborne infections and to facilitate early recognition of foodborne disease clusters that may represent common source outbreaks through molecular surveillance of infections at the global level by:

  • Partnering with reference laboratories throughout the world
  • Building capacity for molecular surveillance of foodborne infections
  • Collaborating on the development, validation and implementation of internationally standardized subtyping methods to be used in the networks
  • Performing collaborative studies on the geographic distribution and spread of different clones of foodborne pathogens


International Perspective of Foodborne Outbreaks

Food consumption and practices have changed throughout the world during the past 20 years. We are observing a shift from the typical localized point source, or “church supper” outbreak, which is relatively easy to detect, to the more diffuse, widespread outbreaks that occur over many communities with only a few illnesses in each community.

This is the result of increased industrialization of the food production. Food produced in one place may be sold and consumed in a geographically distant area . If the product is contaminated at low-level or consumed by relatively few people, the result may be an outbreak with so few cases in each location that it is not noticed locally. However, by collecting and comparing data from different areas, it may be possible to detect such dispersed outbreaks. In this context, PulseNet has revolutionized the way outbreaks are recognized and investigated.

Photo of participants at 2009 Buenos Aires meeting

PulseNet International 2nd Strategic Meeting, Nov 12-13 2009, Buenos Aires

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