Microbes in the food chain represent a major global challenge to health and the economy, through foodborne infections and through their contribution to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.
The Quadram Institute is looking to reduce the problems caused by microbes in the food chain by delivering an enhanced understanding of the ecology, evolution and survival strategies of pathogens in the food chain, including the drivers of antimicrobial resistance, to improve human health.
Working in partnership with other BBSRC-supported institutes, we will harness the latest genomic technologies to track the emergence, evolution and spread of foodborne pathogens in the food chain.
This will focus on E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter, as the major causes of foodborne illness, but our studies also encompass other species including Clostridium botulinum, Listeria and Brachyspira.
Our approach is to gather isolates from across the whole of the food chain, from soil, water, farms, animals, processing factories and humans, to get the fullest possible picture of the genomic epidemiology of these bacteria. Whilst many human isolates have been catalogued, comparatively few have been taken from the food chain environment, so completing this dataset will allow us to identify where foodborne pathogens arise from, and what are the major locations for bacterial communities that potentially could impact health.
Comparative genomics will allow us to identify what drives the emergence of antibiotic resistance as well as other survival strategies, such as the formation of biofilms that resist cleaning, neurotoxin and spore formation in C. botulinum, Salmonella’s ability to colonise plants and animals, and E. coli’s evasion of host defences.
The interdisciplinary team of researchers within the Quadram Institute is at the cutting edge of microbial cell biology, genomics, metagenomics, modelling and bioinformatics, and working strategically with partners on the Norwich Research Park and elsewhere will be developing novel approaches to sequencing and genomic analysis to better understand the microbiology of the food chain. This will allow us to find new interventions to stop pathogen spread in the food chain, either working through our ongoing collaborations with food production companies, or through novel techniques, potentially developed through bioprospecting for useful enzymes or probiotic bacterial strains.