Food safety, which is a very complex series of events, is the responsibility of agriculture, public health, and medicine, that requires bold and revolutionary efforts to ensure. The 100K Pathogen Genome Project is a landmark consortium that addresses the persistent food safety concerns by engaging world-wide partners to create a publicly available genetic database of the most common foodborne disease causing microbes. As our food supply becomes a global industry, food safety becomes a worldwide mandate. This project will revolutionize the methods used in agriculture by bringing a new paradigm to public health to empower precise and robust molecular testing in the food chain – from the farm to the kitchen table.
Despite efforts to reduce foodborne illness, outbreaks from Salmonella, Campylobacter, enteropathogenic E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio, and Shigella continue to occur worldwide. The recent E. coli O104:H4 outbreaks in Europe highlights the need for this approach as it was determined that genetic exchange led to a chimeric genome that was far more pathogenic than either of the other two organisms. In spite of extensive efforts to increase regulation and develop early warning diagnostics for improved public health monitoring, definitive foodborne illness interventions remains elusive in large partly due to the lack of sufficient information about microbial diversity. The 100K pathogen genome sequencing project will use next generation sequencing approaches to enable new diagnostic and public health approaches for use in novel solutions in the management of foodborne disease to facilitate improved public health.
Continual genetic evolution of pathogens is hindering our ability to consistently detect and mitigate these organisms in food, the environment, and livestock, which interfere with our preparedness to defend the food supply. This project will sequence 100,000 genomes of important pathogens to increase food security.
Bart C. Weimer, Ph.D.
School of Veterinary Medicine