The objective of the «PathoSeq» project is to prepare Norwegian food industry for the challenges and possibilities of using modern DNA sequencing technologies for surveillance and control of foodborne pathogenic bacteria. The focus is on Listeria monocytogenes, considered the largest food safety challenge in Norwegian food processing industry.
01. Apr 2019
31. Mar 2023
The Research Council of Norway
Nofima, Departement of Private Law at the University of Oslo, Norway, Institute for Milk Hygiene at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. Industrial partners are Nortura, Grilstad, Norsk Kylling, Orkla Foods Norge, Kjøtt og Fjørfebransjens Landsforbund (KLF), SinkabergHansen, SalMar, Slakteriet, The Norwegian Seafood Federation, Eurofins Genomics and Aquatic Sense.
Norwegian food processing industry continuously meets challenges with respect to food safety, and modern food processing requires that sources of contamination with microbial foodborne pathogens can quickly be identified and eliminated from processing facilities. This requires surveillance sampling schemes and methods for discrimination between different bacterial clones.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a method used to determine the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome.
WGS has superior sensitivity, specificity and accuracy compared with traditional methods used in surveillance, source tracking, and investigation of foodborne outbreaks. The method has therefore revolutionized how the public health and food regulatory sectors perform outbreak investigations and epidemiological surveillance of foodborne pathogens in the food chain. This gives increased possibilities for tracing potential contaminations back to individual processing plants.
Knowledge and benefits
Potentially, the application of WGS technology able to provide the most significant public health benefit has yet to be implemented: The use of WGS for preventative contamination controls in the food industry. This approach will result in a better understanding of transmission patterns and sources for microbial contamination, giving safer products on the market.
WGS analyses can also provide knowledge about the functional properties of bacteria, such as antibiotic resistance, virulence and pathogenicity – knowledge that may be used to improve food safety management and risk assessment plans.
The project plan
The focus is on Listeria monocytogenes, however results will be relevant also for control of other microbial food safety challenges in the food chain.
The project has collected and sequenced environmental isolates of L. monocytogenes from the Norwegian food industry, and performed phylogenetic analyses and mapping of genes conferring relevant functions to individual strains. This will give an overview of the origin, diversity and distribution of L. monocytogenes in the Norwegian food industry, and across different food chains.
We have examined the potential of metagenomic sequencing based methods for faster and more sensitive analysis results. The project will also investigate how WGS can give added value through information about virulence and persistence traits, and clarify practical and legislative barriers for implementation of WGS in the food industry.
A transdisciplinary and multi-actor approach will be used to produce and translate science into practical recommendations for the food industry. This will include clarification of legislative and other regulatory aspects relevant for implementation of WGS methodology for regulation and control of food safety, at both domestic and international levels.This work is led by the University of Oslo: https://www.jus.uio.no/ifp/english/research/projects/nrccl/pathoseq/.