- The CDC is releasing a new food safety tool, PulseNet 2.0, to enable state laboratories to harness whole genome sequencing. The agency has used the technology in its labs, but the tech will now be available to approximately 30 states next year and over the course of two years, the rest of the country.
- Whole genome sequencing can detect the bacterial pathogen's DNA fingerprint, and it provides more detail and clarity to researchers when determining the source of foodborne disease outbreaks.
- The test once cost $100 million when the technology debuted and now costs about $1,000, or about $25 or $50 to isolate DNA fingerprints from smaller samples.
The most obvious implication of the increased availability of whole genome sequencing will be the detection of more outbreaks in better detail. This could enable manufacturers to identify the source of an outbreak linked to their products more quickly.
With more detailed DNA fingerprinting, that leaves little wiggle room for manufacturers if products are targeted as the source of an outbreak, in terms of potential litigation.
DNA fingerprinting has been a standard food safety tool for decades, but previously researchers identified those fingerprints using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE). However, PFGE doesn't provide the same level of detail needed to identify sources of enteric illness outbreaks, such as listeria, E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter, that whole genome sequencing does. Now that this technology bears a lower price tag, it may become the new food industry safety detection standard.
The CDC used whole genome sequencing in several recent listeria outbreaks, including those linked to Blue Bell ice cream and Dole packaged salads.