Identifying and solving weak spots in the food chain for Salmonella is the aim of a newly-appointed molecular microbiologist at The Institute of Food Research (IFR).
Dr Rob Kingsley has joined IFR as a research leader in its Gut Health and Food Safety programme.
Kingsley’s focus is around understanding how bacteria interact with the host, how they move through the food chain and how they cause disease.
“Salmonella is a huge problem still in the UK and worldwide, it is second in incidence only to Campylobacter as a foodborne pathogen and in some circumstances can be more severe,” he told FoodQualityNews.com
“Salmonella has all kinds of routes of entry into the food chain eggs had been a main route but that has been controlled to a large extent, now it is more from livestock such as pigs and cattle. It can contaminate foodstuffs from milk to processed foods.”
He will study variation in the genome sequence and the proteome – the range of proteins translated from those genes, and relate the differences back to how the bacteria behave in the host and in the environment.
Kingsley said whole genome sequencing (WGS) will be used during his work and identified two approaches.
“One will be applying molecular epidemiology which depends on the ability to distinguish Salmonella strains with very high resolution to look at how it spreads, outbreak analysis and transmission between animal and environmental sources to control it from farm to fork.
“The second is to understand how strains with different sets of genes behave in disparate environments, how they survive in certain environments and how this impacts public health, as some strains are more likely to enter the food chain than others.”
He said that a lot of research has been done on Salmonella as it is a traditional organism in which to study host-pathogen interactions, since is more genetically amenable in the laboratory than many other pathogens.
“The perception is that Salmonella has been controlled in UK but while there has been a small decrease in incidence due to control in eggs, actually it remains a big problem and there has been a drop off in work.
“[The aim is] to be able to identify potential weak spots during food processing or in livestock rearing in which Salmonella has the opportunity to contaminate the food chain and look at how Salmonella moves around hosts and the envirnment and gets into the food chain.”
He had worked at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge for 10 years, where he incorporated genomic research and data analysis into studies into Salmonella.
Kingsley, who has a global health background, said he was keen to connect with others in the food industry and work with IFR’s sister research institutions around foodborne pathogens.