Infectious disease pathogens are building resistance to the medications used to treat them, creating a growing problem for patients, physicians and the public health system worldwide. This phenomenon, known as antimicrobial resistance (AR), accelerates the naturally occurring evolution of pathogens through repeated use of antibiotic and antiviral medications.
Pathogen evolution has implications for people. Over the last decade, outbreaks of antimicrobial resistant diseases have increased while the number of effective medications used to treat them has dwindled. Yet until recently, US capacity to detect and control antimicrobial resistant pathogens was limited.
In 2016 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the
Antimicrobial Resistance Laboratory Network (ARLN) to respond to these challenges by creating a national system for rapid detection of AR. Comprised of public health laboratories in 50 states, five cities, and Puerto Rico, the network detects antimicrobial resistance in healthcare, food and the community to inform local responses. Seven public health laboratories, designated as ARLN regional laboratories, support other network laboratories with additional testing, colonization screening and outbreak support as needed.
The new laboratory network requires scientists with the knowledge and skills to identify and characterize AR using both conventional culture-based (phenotypic) and molecular (genotypic) testing methods. Currently, few scientists have these unique capabilities.
To address this gap, CDC created the
AR Fellowship, a full-time working fellowship program for master's- and doctoral-degree level scientists. Administered by APHL and supported through a CDC cooperative agreement, the fellowship is designed to build a cadre of scientists with specialized training in advanced techniques and methodologies for improved detection, surveillance and reporting of AR.
Fellows work for one to two years in one of the regional laboratories under the instruction of experienced mentors. Typical projects include assay development, sequence analysis support for epidemiologic and outbreak investigations, and optimization of whole genome sequencing platforms. In addition to their work at a regional laboratory, fellows spend two weeks at CDC in Atlanta where they receive training and network with public health leaders. To broaden their experience, fellows are encouraged to publish their work and present it at conferences.
As AR Fellow Emily Snavely, PhD, of the
Wadsworth Center of the New York Department of Health explains, these experiences equip fellows to continue the fight against AR in their careers:
"This fellowship is a fantastic opportunity to see firsthand how a public health laboratory interacts with other agencies and laboratories to detect and respond to infectious disease threats. In addition to learning how clinical labs identify and characterize antimicrobial resistant organisms, I've had the chance to begin an exciting research project that has potential to positively impact public health and patient care. Finally, the networking and professional development opportunities presented by the fellowship have grown my laboratory management skills."
APHL is now accepting candidates for the next class of AR Fellows. The deadline for applications is February 28, 2018. To access the application and applicant qualifications, visit the
AR Fellowship page.