Ag Today April 30, 2018

Genetic sleuthing bolsters food poisoning searches

By MIKE STOBBE
Associated Press, featured in The San Diego Union Tribune

Monday, April 30, 2018

Disease hunters are using genetic sequencing in their investigation of the ongoing food poisoning outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, a technique that is revolutionizing the detection of germs in food.

The genetic analysis is being used to bolster investigations and — in some cases — connect the dots between what were once seemingly unrelated illnesses. It also is uncovering previously unfathomed sources of food poisoning, including one outbreak from apples dipped in caramel.

So far, most of the work has largely focused on one germ, listeria. But it is expanding. By the end of this year, labs in all 50 states are expected to also be using genetic sequencing for much more common causes of food poisoning outbreaks, including salmonella and the E. coli bacteria linked to recent lettuce outbreak.

That means the number of identifiable outbreaks are likely to explode even if the number of illnesses don’t.

Read more…