A scientist hopes to use novel technology to develop a faster method of detection and genetic identification of salmonella in contaminated foods.
Byron Brehm-Stecher, an Iowa State University researcher, wants to replace the current system of salmonella detection with a new approach that can provide DNA sequencing-like results in hours rather than days.
Currently, definitive genetic identification of food-borne pathogens is done using traditional DNA sequencing methods first developed in the 1980s.
"If you want (DNA) sequence information now, you first need to run a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on total DNA extracted from a sample of contaminated food. This amplifies DNA from the pathogen you're looking for and will let you know if salmonella is present or not," said Brehm-Stecher.
"However, further details about the pathogen are lacking, like what strain is present. To dig deeper, you need to run a cycle sequencing reaction - similar to a long PCR reaction - and send the output from this to a DNA sequencing core facility. Results are available about two days later.
"This is not fast enough to keep up with the pace of today's food production and distribution networks. We are able to get foods from the farm to the table - really any table around the globe - in a remarkably short period of time," he added.
Faster detection of specific strains can mean recognizing an outbreak sooner and stopping tainted food from being delivered and consumed.
The new method might be helpful for investigative agencies, Brehm-Stecher said.
The recent results of the research will be presented at the August meeting of the International Association for Food Protection in Anaheim, Calif.