FDA plans to use WGS (whole genome sequencing) to protect consumers worldwide from food borne illnesses

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 600 million people in the world fall ill every year after eating contaminated food and 420,000 of these people die. U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates for those numbers in the U.S. are 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, This is a significant public health burden that is largely preventable.

FDA, in cooperation with EU and Japanese food safety authorities, has been a leader in the use of WGS to identify the nature and source of bacteria that contaminate food and cause outbreaks of foodborne disease. By sequencing the chemical building blocks that make up the DNA of these pathogens, WGS reveals their genetic fingerprint, offering clues about their geographic source, antimicrobial resistance, and other key markers that help scientists respond more effectively to food contamination, preventing illnesses.

In the last few years, WGS has fundamentally changed the way that we detect, identify and monitor microbiological food safety hazards within the United States. This technology is rapid, precise, cost-effective, easy-to-use, and can be applied universally to all foodborne pathogens.

The GenomeTrakr is an international network of laboratories (above GenomeTrakr labs in the U.S., left: labs outside the U.S.) sequencing microbial foodborne pathogens and uploading the data to a common public database in real time.

The goal of GenomeTrakr is simple: to assemble a large, freely accessible database of genetic sequence information and accompanying metadata, e.g. geographic location and date, from food, environmental and human clinical isolates of bacterial pathogens. This information can be used by scientists on the trail of disease-causing bacteria, unmasking each contaminant’s identity and offering clues to where and how it got into the food supply.


Food Safety News, Sep 16, 2017

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