LGC reveals Campylobacter breakthrough

Scientists at LGC, the UK’s designated National Measurement Institute for chemical and bioanalytical measurement, say they have demonstrated ‘proof of principle’ for a novel molecular DNA diagnostic technique to identify specific species of Campylobacter.

Of the five major foodborne bacteria; Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli 0157, Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the UK. In 2008, there were 49,880 cases of Campylobacter infection in England and Wales, compared with 9,867 of Salmonella.

The traditional method of identifying bacterial pathogens associated with foodborne illnesses is examination via pour plate technology with biochemical reactions and identification and enumeration by microscopy. However, this approach, says LGC, could be considered time-consuming and somewhat subjective.

LGC says its research focuses on a more accurate and efficient approach for species identification, with scientists modifying routine polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods to differentiate successfully two of the most common Campylobacter species; C. coli and C. jejuni, by their unique DNA profiles. Proof of principle for LGC’s technique was demonstrated using Campylobacter DNA supplied by ATCC via LGC Standards, the European distributor of ATCC biological cultures and bioproducts.

Through expertise in refining PCR and the optimisation of previously published methods, LGC’s scientists have reduced the time taken to carry out the amplification step in the PCR process by 50% and improved assay efficiency by decreasing both, reagent volumes by 75% and the use of primers and enzymes by 85%. The technique employs the novel use of a restriction enzyme which also enables significantly improved experimental repeatability.

“The FSA’s strategic plan for 2010–2015 sets one of its main priorities as ensuring ‘Food produced or sold in the UK is safe to eat’ and cites the reduction of foodborne disease, specifically in tackling the incidences of Campylobacter in chicken, as one of its main objectives,” says an LGC spokesman. “LGC’s molecular DNA technique demonstrates the potential to give very specific identification of different Campylobacter species based on unique DNA profiles. Whilst this approach is still in its early stages of development, the technique has demonstrated the potential to differentiate efficiently between species.”

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