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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2001 Jul;125(7):913-20.

Characterization of microorganism identification in the United States in 1996.

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Division of Laboratory Systems, Laboratory Performance Assessment Branch, Public Health Practice Program Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chamblee, GA 30341, USA.



The National Inventory of Clinical Laboratory Testing Services (NICLTS) was designed to give an unbiased estimate of all patient testing performed by laboratories registered under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments in 1996.


Survey data were used to develop a profile of laboratory testing primarily intended to identify microorganisms or antibodies to these microorganisms.


Estimates of the extent of microorganism identification were derived from the NICLTS database by identifying associated tests and methods. The volumes for tests performed at locations that primarily prepared blood components for distribution were excluded. Organisms of public health importance were identified from the National Notifiable Disease list maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Laboratories that were enrolled in the 1996 Online Certification Survey and Reporting System, maintained by the US Health Care Finance Administration, and that performed laboratory testing in 1996.


Estimated volumes and associated confidence limits by test, method, specimen type, public health importance, and testing location.


Excluding testing of the blood supply, 315 million tests (95% confidence limits, 280-354 million tests) were performed in the United States for microorganism identification. Those tests for which public health consensus requires national reporting represented 38% of this total. Although hospitals performed 46% of all microorganism identification, they only performed 33% of the testing for microorganisms of public health importance. Independent and specialty laboratories performed 38% of all testing but 65% of the testing for microorganisms of public health importance. Direct methods (methods not involving culture) were used in 77% of the tests for microorganisms of public health importance and in 42% of all identification tests.


The distribution of microorganism identification testing found using NICLTS data is consistent with plans to modernize the public health surveillance system in the United States.

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