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Laboratory-confirmed cases of Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) have been notifiable to the National Notification System for Infectious Diseases in Switzerland since 1999. Since 2015, a large increase in case numbers has been observed. Around the same time, syndromic multiplex PCR started to replace other diagnostic methods in standard laboratory practice for gastrointestinal pathogen testing, suggesting that the increase in notified cases is due to a change in test practices and numbers.


This study examined the impact of changes in diagnostic methods, in particular the introduction of multiplex PCR panels, on routine STEC surveillance data in Switzerland.


We analysed routine laboratory data from 11 laboratories, which reported 61.9% of all STEC cases from 2007 to 2016 to calculate the positivity, i.e. the rate of the number of positive STEC tests divided by the total number of tests performed.


The introduction of multiplex PCR had a strong impact on STEC test frequency and identified cases, with the number of tests performed increasing sevenfold from 2007 to 2016. Still, age- and sex-standardised positivity increased from 0.8% in 2007 to 1.7% in 2016.


Increasing positivity suggests that the increase in case notifications cannot be attributed to an increase in test numbers alone. Therefore, we cannot exclude a real epidemiological trend for the observed increase. Modernising the notification system to address current gaps in information availability, e.g. diagnostic methods, and improved triangulation of clinical presentation, diagnostic and serotype information are needed to deal with emerging disease and technological advances.


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