FDA, partners launch genome project for foodborne pathogens

A new online tool may help public health officials track the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks.

The 100K Genome Project, announced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tuesday, is a five-year project to create a database of gene sequences from 100,000 bacteria that have caused outbreaks around the world, according to a statement from the FDA.

The project is a collaboration between the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and other public and private groups.

The database will give scientists new means to develop pathogen tests and expand the number of researchers who can create software to analyze hazards related to outbreaks. The FDA also hopes it will help investigators pinpoint the sources of outbreaks quicker.

For example, if a person tests positive for Salmonella, investigators could compare the genetic sequences ofthe pathogen with the database, which could indicate where the same strain was last detected. This could help narrow down likely sources of the outbreak, according to the FDA.

More than 48 million people in the U.S. are sickened by foodborne pathogens such as E. coliListeria and Salmonella each year. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die, according to the CDC.

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