The big, bad six: Breaking down the buzz around E. coli O157:H7’s nasty relatives

E. coli O157:H7 is going to have to get used to sharing the spotlight.

It’s also about the Big Six now.

As a result of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, the government has increased its focus on six strains of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (or STECs) that previously weren’t as big of a concern as H7: O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145. For the first time, the six were deemed adulterants, joining the better known O157:H7 in that not-so-pleasant category.

The designation increased testing requirements, which were slated to go into effect in early March but were delayed. So what does it mean for producers, manufacturers and importers? If samples test positive, the product will be held for additional testing, which could take three to five days. For importers, future product from that country could be held at port.

Given the increased scrutiny, two microbiologists at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have taken on the task of furthering knowledge on the Big Six. So far, they’ve made a few interesting finds including certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, also referred to as biomarkers) that allow scientists to detect these strains quickly and effectively. And bonus, the SNPs only identify the strains of the Big Six that can make people ill, according to an article in Quality Assurance magazine.

And which biomarkers are the researchers at ARS using? Neogen’s NeoSEEK biomarkers for E. coli testing.

NeoSEEK is a pathogen detection system that provides next-day results from enriched samples for the Big Six and E. coli O157:H7.

For more information on Neogen’s NeoSEEK, click here or here.

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