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article imageMcGill food safety team gets $10 million for Salmonella research

By Karen Graham     Aug 9, 2015 in Science
Montreal - Salmonellosis is the second most frequently reported food-related illness in Canada. Montreal's McGill University food safety team has been awarded a $10 million grant to study Salmonella, focusing on how to tackle the bacterium in the farmer's fields.
The research team is being led by McGill Food Safety Associate Professor Lawrence Goodridge, Ph.D. When interviewed by Food Safety News, he described the four-year project and what the team hoped to accomplish.
The research will begin with the team focusing on sequencing the genomes of 4,500 isolates from the 2,500 known Salmonella serotypes. This process could take over a year. Of the 2,500 known serotypes of the bacterium, the vast majority of illnesses around the world are caused by about two dozen of the serotypes.
The focus of this part of the study will be to determine what makes these two dozen virulent serotypes different than the others, primarily from a genetic perspective. This phase of the research is particularly daunting, but the differences the team hopes to find should answer questions about the bacterium's traits.
One big question the research team hopes to answer is how the salmonella bacterium is capable of making people sick via dry foods that don't support the growth of other bacteria. The Salmonella bacterium has been found in dry food products such as herbs and spices, dried mushrooms and dry pet foods.
The information gleaned from the study will help growers and food safety researchers in developing new ways to tackle Salmonella on produce in the field. The study will also aid in the development of better diagnostic tests for Salmonella, and perhaps, more importantly, better methodology in tracking a food source in the event of an outbreak of Salmonellosis.
The official start of the project is slated for October, although Dr. Goodridge says some of the preliminary work has already begun. “Certainly, in the next four years, there’s going to be a lot of work in the laboratory,” he said.
Genome Canada, a non-profit organization supporting the use of genomic technologies to solve economic and social problems, awarded the university a $9.8 million grant for the research study, under the title, "A Syst-OMICS approach to ensuring food safety and reducing the economic burden of salmonellosis."
McGill University is a public research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. McGill is one of only two Canadian universities, the other being the University of Toronto, that are members of the American Association of Universities, an organization of 63 leading research universities from across the United States and Canada.
Worldwide, there are approximately 93 million cases of Salmonellosis reported each year. In the U.S., Salmonella is the second most common cause of food-borne illness, behind Norovirus. In Canada, Salmonella is the second leading cause of food-borne illness. Answering the question of how we can battle Salmonella on dry foods will be of great importance to all of us.
More about Mcgill university, food safety team, genome canada, $10 million grant, salmonella research
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