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Whole-Genome Sequencing Transforms Salmonella Detection

Salmonella is among the most common organisms responsible for symptomatic and severe food poisoning. Strategies to detect this have advanced from crude microscopic identification to serotype discovery.

Now scientists at Cornell University and the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC), Beijing note that they can use high-resolution whole-genome sequencing expertise to soundly and consistently determine dangerous variants of this bacterium.

Salmonella usually contaminates ready-to-eat foods which are comparatively dry, like uncooked almonds or peanut butter. The occurrence of many such cases makes it essential to have the ability to track Salmonella via the food supply chain to prevent such contamination. At present, there are over 2,500 serovars or serotypes of salmonella; however, less than a hundred generally cause human disease.

Microbiologists all over the world have used conventional subtyping techniques to describe the salmonella strains recognized in numerous outbreaks of food poisoning. In truth, some of these return to the early decades of this century, when there was limited technology. It typically takes over three days to locate the serotype of an organism from the time of separation, and sometimes more than 12 days. Apart from being a long-drawn-out process, it’s labor-intensive, talent dependent and often inaccurate.

However, with the arrival of modern molecular methods, like nucleotide banding pattern-based strategies and sequence-based techniques, scientists can now establish these variants with far more accuracy, in addition, to trace the trail of the outbreak and where it originated from.

The current study deals primarily with whole-genome sequencing, which reveals the complete genetic make-up of an organism all at the same time.

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