GERMS-SA is a nationwide network of clinical microbiology laboratories (in the public and private-sector) which participate in an active laboratory-based surveillance programme for bacterial and fungal pathogens of public health importance. Approximately 200 South African clinical microbiology laboratories participate in the surveillance programme. The SA population under surveillance is estimated to be almost 53 million.  Microbiology laboratories submit clinical isolates or specimens according to specific case definitions to reference laboratories at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for confirmation and further characterisation. In addition, at 25 hospitals in all 9 provinces (our "enhanced" or “sentinel" sites), GERMS-SA has employed professional and enrolled nurses as Surveillance Officers (SOs). The SOs collect additional clinical and epidemiological information on the laboratory-confirmed cases. GERMS-SA has an extensive repository of data and isolates related to important communicable diseases in South Africa. This allows GERMS-SA to provide essential public health information to the Department of Health and other stakeholders.
The pathogens under GERMS-SA surveillance were chosen from 4 broad categories, namely:

  • AIDS-related opportunistic infections
    Cryptococcosis, salmonellosis, invasive pneumococcal disease, rifampicin-resistant TB 
  • Epidemic-prone diseases
    Cholera, typhoid fever, meningococcal disease, shigellosis, diarrhoeal disease due to diarrhoeagenic E. coli (EHEC)
  • Vaccine-preventable diseases
    Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, invasive pneumococcal disease
  • Nosocomial infections
    Bacteraemia due to Candida spp, Staphylococcus aureus and other ESKAPE organisms (Enterococcus, Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and ESBL (Enterobacter and E. coli).

GERMS- SA Principal Investigators’ Meeting, 14 November 2013, NICD