The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the University of California, Davis, Agilent Technologies, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this week that the collaboration will create a public database of 100,000 foodborne pathogen genomes to help speed identification of bacteria responsible for foodborne outbreaks.  The database will provide a roadmap for development of tests to identify pathogens and provide information about the origin of the pathogen. The tests have the potential to significantly reduce the typical public health response time in outbreaks of foodborne illness to days instead of weeks.

When used as part of an overall surveillance and outbreak investigation system, the genetic information in the new database, in combination with geographic information about the pathogens, will help public health officials more quickly pinpoint the source of contamination responsible for a foodborne outbreak.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), is also collaborating on the project. “This initiative shows great promise as we look to improve our ability to identify and track down potential sources of foodborne outbreaks,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. “FSIS intends to submit important bacterial strains from our regulatory testing program for sequencing at UC Davis, and we look forward to the benefits this public database could provide federal, state and local public health agencies.”

As part of its efforts for the collaboration, UC Davis is currently forming a consortium to support the 100K Genome Project. The consortium participants will draw from a variety of stakeholders including federal, state, and local public health laboratories, food manufacturers, industries, and academic organizations. Organizations interested in joining the collaboration can contact Bart Weimer, the UC Davis program director at  FDA’s news release can be viewed here.