Could a map of the Listeria genome aid development of more rapids tests for the foodborne pathogen? The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Genome Canada and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions think so and have formed a partnership on a $600,000 project to do just that.
Though not as common as other foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella or E.coli, Listeria monocytogenes is harder to kill and creates an infection, called listeriosis, that is always serious and often deadly. About 95 percent of listeriosis patients require hospitalization and for 18 percent, the disease proves fatal, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Current tests for Listeria take five days, cutting down that time would allow public health officials to more quickly identify contaminated foods and reduce risk for consumers. “This project is a step the Harper Government is taking to demonstrate how Canada’s research leadership can be used to benefit Canadian society by investigating innovative and more timely techniques to protect our food supply,” said Gary Goodyear, Canada’s Minister of State for Science and Technology.
Pierre Meulien, President and CEO, Genome Canada, said: “Genomics research will bring a new level of advanced innovation and technology to food safety. We expect to provide the means to enable both the food industry and food regulators to respond swiftly to food safety investigations by identifying a potentially dangerous food contaminant as quickly as possible to prevent or limit the impact of an outbreak.”
Last year, 146 people in 28 states contracted listeriosis from tainted cantaloupe produced by Jensen Farms in Holly, Colo. More than 30 people died and one woman who was pregnant miscarried. In Canada, a 2008 Listeria outbreak linked to contaminated cold cuts produced by Maple Leaf Foods of Toronto sickened 57 people and killed 22.
The 18-month Listeria genome project will be funded by an investment of $250,000 each from Genome Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and $100,000 from Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions.