Dr Matthew Gilmour and Dr Evelien Adriaenssens from the Quadram Institute in Norwich, UK, have each been granted prestigious partnership awards to collaborate with researchers in Canada.
The UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded awards will involve a variety of activities over the duration, including seminars, workshops, and exchange visits. The BBSRC Canada Partnering Awards are four-year awards to a maximum of £50,000 over the course of the project. The partnering awards encourage the long-term collaboration of scientists internationally, sharing skills and experiences across disciplines to strengthen the scientific approaches to the respective control of infectious diseases in the UK and partner countries.
Dr Gilmour’s partnership will focus on the advancement of genomic tools to study the foodborne transmission of Listeria monocytogenes, the cause of the foodborne infection, listeriosis. Partnering with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory and Health Canada’s Food Directorate, the collaboration will enable the exchange of ideas and approaches towards Listeria and facilitate the development of bioinformatic tools to study key genetic elements of Listeria, which will help to contribute improved evidence during food safety interventions. This will include focusing on genetic traits responsible for antibiotic and biocide resistance, and the formation of biofilms, which play an important role in the pathogen’s ability to grow and survive in food processing facilities and ultimately cause human illness.
Dr Gilmour’s research group works to understand the microbial traits that contribute to the significant risk posed by Listeria.
Dr Gilmour said: “The people in this collaboration have already done much work to bring genomic technologies into the mainstream to investigate foodborne illnesses, including listeriosis. We have recognised that there are still many gaps in our understanding of how Listeria survives and then spills into the food chain. Between our coalition of Canadian and UK experts, we are very excited to work together to further advance our toolset and improve our investigation into the reasons for these continued illnesses.”
“Early detection of Listeria in the food chain is crucial, as it helps reduce the frequency of food-borne illness outbreaks. Health Canada is proud to have our very own Dr Pagotto partner with Dr. Gilmour and the National Microbiology Laboratory to advance food safety research and improve outbreak response, said Dr Martin Duplessis, Director of the Bureau of Microbial Hazards at Health Canada’s Food Directorate. Because the Bureau of Microbial Hazards works to minimize public health risks from the consumption of foods contaminated by bacterial, parasitic, viral, and prion-disease agents, this is a great opportunity to collaborate with national and international partners.”
Dr Adriaenssens’ partnership is with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), a department of the Canadian government concerned with farm and agri-based products, to focus on a one health approach to understanding and using bacteriophages in the control of enteric pathogens and their effects on the gut microbiome. The award will facilitate the exchanging knowledge and expertise on the food chain application of bacteriophages, their genomic diversity, bioinformatics and the gut microbiome.
Dr Adriaenssens’ and her research group at the Quadram Institute study the role of bacteriophages in gut health and disease.
Dr Adriaenssens said: “I am very excited to start this collaboration with Dr Hany Anany at AAFC which will allow us to increase our knowledge on bacteriophages in that crucial interface between food applications and the human microbiome, supported by excellence in bioinformatics through our Co-Investigator Dr Andrea Telatin. We predict that bacteriophages will be important players in the future fight against antimicrobial resistance, both in the food chain and in human therapies.”
Dr Hany Anany, research scientist at the Guelph Research and Development Centre, AAFC, said: “I am thrilled to be part of the Canada Partnering Award and work with Drs Adriaenssens and Telatin in this interesting research project. The outstanding experience of our UK partners in bacteriophage biology and viromics will definitely help us to have a better understanding of the enormous diversity of bacteriophages throughout the food supply chain and their host interaction. This will lead to the development of novel phage-based approaches to control and detect foodborne bacterial pathogens to enhance food safety.”