Photo: Nathan Reading (Flickr)
Harmful food-borne bacteria can result in public health crises and massive recalls, like the listeria outbreak of 2011 that was traced to cantaloupe.
Controlling contaminated food is currently handled through DNA testing, which can be time-consuming and, at times, imprecise.
By using genome mapping, scientists can not only track outbreaks faster, but may be able to prevent infections before they start.
As genome testing becomes more widespread in the medical field, the technology also becomes cheaper and easier for scientists to use. Congress recently awarded the CDC a $30 million grant to expand advanced molecular detection in hopes that future outbreaks will be traced more quickly and even be prevented.
By linking DNA from those affected back to the food they consumed, genome mapping will allow scientists to more narrowly target the germs that cause food-poison outbreaks.
Previously, the CDC didn’t have the capacity to deal with the massive amounts of data generated by genome mapping. But technology advances have made storing and using the data more manageable.