PulseNet Middle East was established in December 2006 following a consultation meeting held at WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) in Cairo, Egypt. The network was established as a molecular surveillance network for foodborne infections to support the Food Safety regional plan and promote technical collaboration between countries.
Currently, the network includes public health laboratories and academic and medical institutions from 10 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. A goal of PulseNet Middle East is to enhance communication between laboratories and epidemiologists in the region by inviting laboratory staff and epidemiologists from member countries to the network annual meetings to increase collaborative efforts and develop action plans to strengthen national foodborne disease surveillance and response programs.
The general objectives of PulseNet Middle East are:
The Network is coordinated by both the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) in Muscat; Oman and the WHO Office for National Epidemic Preparedness and Response (LYO) located in Lyon, France. As the PulseNet Middle East Coordinating Laboratory, CPHL Oman is currently PulseNet certified for both gel and analysis of Salmonella. The laboratory is in the process of completing certification for Shigella and Campylobacter. A regional database for Salmonella has also been developed at CPHL Oman, with nearly 150 indistinguishable patterns uploaded to the database by March 2010. In addition, CPHL Oman has also successfully participated in the Shigella flexneri validation protocol as a representative for PulseNet Middle East among other regional and national networks of PulseNet International.
Other PulseNet Middle East member laboratories are in the process of procuring the necessary instruments, reagents, analysis software (BioNumerics), and certifications essential as an active member of the network.
Training to obtain gel and analysis certification has been provided by the US Naval Medical Research Unit 3 (NAMRU-3) in Cairo, Egypt for PulseNet Midlde East members. A number of member laboratories made the process of completing PulseNet certification for Salmonella a priority.
In addition to trainings for specific member laboratories, regional BioNumerics training have also occurred alongside the second and third consultations held in Cairo, Egypt (2007) and Amman, Jordan (2008), respectively. CPHL Oman is now ready to provide training on PFGE techniques (gel) and BioNumerics (analysis) to PulseNet Network members.
Promoting active communication among network members is a network objective PulseNet Middle East has placed as a priority. To meet this objective, the network is working towards establishing a secure, web-based discussion board for participating members to exchange PulseNet information, protocols and alerts. By meeting this objective, the network will move closer towards meeting other network objectives aimed at not only developing a strong, sustainable PulseNet Middle East, but a stronger surveillance and response system to foodborne disease threats for the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The PulseNet Middle East Network currently has an open invitation to all countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region with the laboratory capacity (PulseNet equipment and software) necessary to support molecular subtyping techniques.
For further information please contact:
Dr. Suleiman Al-Busaidy Director, Central Public Health Laboratory, Ministry of Health, Muscat, Oman.
PulseNet Middle East group photo, Dec 2008