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Whole Genome Sequencing: A New Approach for Detecting and Tracking Foodborne Pathogens

dna1Whole genome sequencing is a technology that can be used to detect and track foodborne pathogens. Whenever there is an outbreak of a foodborne illness, the technology can be used to find out which pathogen caused the outbreak and where it originated.

JIFSAN is working with the FDA to study major foodborne pathogens like SalmonellaE. coli, and
Listeria. JIFSAN Director Dr. Jianghong Meng says, “One project we are working on is to identify these organisms and to determine if strains of these pathogens from different sources are related.”

The research also looks at foodborne pathogens on a global scale. For example, it’s important for researchers to look at bacteria, such as E. coli, in countries all over the world to see if they are connected and how they are different.

“We want to build a database of all the organisms from different sources,” Dr. Meng says, “When there is an outbreak we will be able to compare the outbreak strains of bacteria against the reference we already built in the database to see if there is any connection.”

Using whole genome sequencing on a global scale can simplify the identification process and eliminate procedures for isolation and identification. This can benefit developing countries that
don’t have the proper training or facilities to go through extensive identification processes.

Students and post-doctoral scientists at the University of Maryland are involved with the collaborative research on whole genome sequencing.

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