Thermo Fisher to collaborate on new food safety tests

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  • Published: May 21, 2014
  • Author: Jon Evans
  • Suppliers: Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Channels: Proteomics & Genomics / Electrophoresis

Thermo Fisher Scientific is to collaborate with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) on the development of rapid methods for detecting the bacterium Escherichia coli in meat products.

Under the agreement, the extensive collections of E. coli strains held by USDA-ARS and Penn State will be made available to Thermo Fisher for genetic analysis. Thermo Fisher scientists will sequence approximately 200 strains using Life Technologies Ion Personal Genome Machine and then use this information to develop rapid DNA-based kits for detecting E. coli in food and identifying specific strains. These commercial kits will be developed on multiple analytical platforms, employing either next generation sequencing or capillary electrophoresis-based sequencing.

‘Consumption of pathogenic E. coli can lead to kidney failure and may be fatal,’ said Chobi DebRoy, director of the E. coli Reference Center at Penn State. ‘Genetic assays that can accurately, rapidly and cost effectively detect pathogenic strains will prevent disease and reduce the economic burden associated with food-borne disease outbreaks.’ Traditionally, the food industry has used serological tests to type bacterial strains, based on detection of surface markers, but DNA-based tests are more sensitive and accurate, allowing closely-related strains to be distinguished from one another.

‘Molecular technologies for rapid detection, typing, identification, and characterization of pathogens represent a paradigm shift for the food industry,’ said Pina Fratamico, a research leader with the USDA-ARS. ‘The current collaboration will lead us to a much higher resolution understanding of E. coli genetics, as well as highly specific and sensitive methods for detecting pathogenic strains, resulting ultimately in a safer food supply.’

‘Thermo Fisher is uniquely positioned to connect discovery – the characterization of pathogens by DNA sequencing – with commercial test production,’ said Ravindra Ramadhar, food safety business director at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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