Using technology to fight foodborne disease

Advances in molecular biology could revolutionise the way in which foodborne disease outbreaks are investigated, according to the Food Standards Agency, enabling faster and more accurate identification of the organisms responsible.
Some of the UK’s top public health officials have hailed DNA sequencing techniques, such as next generation sequencing, as one the most powerful laboratory tools to help tackle foodborne disease, such as E.coli and salmonella, and have underlined their commitment to use this technology in future.
“The devastating effects of incidents such as the E.coli O104 outbreak in Germany, remind us of the need to embrace cutting-edge technology to help us transform the way we investigate incidents in the future,” says Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the Food Standards Agency. “We are fully committed to exploiting the potential of molecular biology tools, such as next generation sequencing, in our fight against foodborne disease.
“By using these techniques, outbreaks could be investigated more quickly and effectively than ever before. This could shape the way we respond to incidents in the future and, ultimately, save lives.’
An estimated one million people a year in the UK suffer from foodborne illness, with 20,000 receiving hospital treatment and causing about 500 deaths.

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