Exciting things are happening in Canada’s scientific community and, more specifically, in the realm of Canadian food science. A team of Canadian researchers have developed a revolutionary system that could help prevent millions of people across the globe from eating food that is contaminated with salmonella, preventing thousands of potentially fatal illnesses. If you’re considering enrolling in a food safety program, you could very well see the positive effects of SalFos during your career.
Are you curious to learn more about SalFos? Read on to discover how this database could help save lives.
What Students in Food Safety Courses Need to Know on the Creation of the SalFoS Database
In 2015 and 2016, Canadian researchers Dr. Lawrence Goodridge from McGill University and Roger C. Levesque from IBIS, Université Laval created and lead a team of scientists as part of the Genome Canada Salmonella Syst-OMICS project. Their mission: using genome sequencing to find and determine which strains of salmonella are causing human disease.
For students considering a food safety course and who may be unfamiliar with genetic testing, genome sequencing is the process of stripping down a specimen’s DNA and finding the specific order of the individual pieces, also known as nucleotides or bases, of that DNA. By sequencing their order, scientists can learn more about the DNA and its genetic history.
During the Genome Canada Salmonella Syst-OMICS project, the team collected a multitude of valuable data points about illness-causing strains of salmonella. In order to put this data to good use, the Salmonella Foodborne Syst-OMICS (SalFos) database was created.
Tracking Salmonellagenomic Sequences Using the SalFoS Database
Genome sequencing has the potential to reveal fascinating and potentially lifesaving insights into salmonella, which is why scientists have created the SalFoS database. The SalFoS database allows Canadian and international researchers to log their research on the genetic sequences of different strains of salmonella.
Specially, the database is looking for information regarding a strain’s infectious properties. This includes virulence factors, which are proteins that worsen the symptoms of salmonella poisoning, genes that are resistant to antibiotic treatment, and mobile elements which spread the contaminant from cell to cell. By tracking these genetic properties in various strains of salmonella, scientists can gain a better understanding of salmonella’s evolutionary behaviour, where it comes from, and hopefully, how it can be stopped. Currently, the goal is to catalogue 4,500 sequences.
Once a variety of genomic sequences have been catalogued in the database, scientists can take a closer look at the sequences, and identify where and when small changes in the genetic makeup occurred that resulted in new strains being created. Using this information, scientists can then create a timeline or “family tree” of sorts, which can offer insight into how salmonella spreads and evolves. In the future, this information could hopefully be used to identify certain areas of the globe that produce large amounts of food tainted with salmonella.
While only time will tell how SalFoS will impact the food industry, in the future, food safety professionals may be able to use this knowledge to strategically select food suppliers in areas known to be relatively free of salmonella. It could also help professionals become more aware of food that is sourced from at-risk areas and take the necessary cautionary steps to ensure the food is safe for consumption.
Food Safety Workers Know the Impact of Salmonella on Canadians’ Health
This database could not come at a more crucial time for Canada. As professionals with a certificate in food safety know, salmonella poisoning, otherwise known as salmonellosis, is extremely common in Canada. In fact, according to the Government of Canada, every year 87,500 Canadians will suffer from Salmonellosis, and 24 per cent of all food-borne illness hospitalizations can be attributed to the illness.
While many individuals who contract salmonellosis only have minor symptoms like fever and nausea, some will experience distressing symptoms like severe dehydration as a result of vomiting and diarrhea, and even death. About 16 per cent of all food-borne illness deaths in Canada can be attributed to salmonella. Thus, there’s never been a more important time for a robust database to help scientists track and prevent the spread of salmonella.
If scientists are able to use the data gained from SalFos to prevent or minimize the spread of salmonella, it could mean food safety workers in Canada might see drastic decreases in the amount of food contaminated with salmonella. As a result, food safety professionals may be able to focus their efforts on stopping other food-borne contaminants, making our food industry even safer.
Do you want to become a food safety worker and help improve the health of Canadians?
Contact AAPS today to learn more about becoming a food safety professional!