Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Using Genetics to Identify Foodborne Illnesses

    The most recent E coli outbreak involved Romaine lettuce from Arizona. Causing many Americans to get food poisoning. Symptoms like vomiting and hemorrhaging make this a nasty illness. Foodborne illness is a very common, yet costly public health problem according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). An estimated 1 in every 6 Americans will develop a form of food borne illness from either food or beverage annually. And around 3,000 people die each year. This naturally would be a cause for concern. Luckily, there is a new technique that relies solely on the genetics of food. Allowing the CDC to seemingly "connect the dots" with foodborne illnesses. These "dots" represent the numerous people from different states that have the same illness. The technique involves doing whole genome sequencing from different people. Allowing scientists to observe if the illness is caused by the same germ. previously, the health department would send DNA samples to the CDC for testing. With this long process, many people would suffer the same fate if the germ was not found quickly. Now however, all 50 states are receiving federal money to construct their own labs in order to test the DNA. The new process is much shorter, with results coming in approximately 72 hours. The CDC is hoping for the labs to be able to sequence all bacteria in foodborne illnesses. Among these bacteria include Salmonella and E coli. And while this new technique did not detect the E coli in the Romaine lettuce, it was used in linking over a dozen cases across the United States. 

I believe that this is very important in today's world. I was recently sick due to bad food I had eaten at a Hibachi restaurant in my hometown. And while it was not a severe case, it was not a pleasant experience. Sequencing all bacteria in foodborne illnesses would greatly reduce the number of persons affected and lessen the number of people whom die due to simply eating.

CDC and Food Safety:

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