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.
Working in collaboration with other BBSRC-supported institutes, we are harnessing the latest genomic technologies to track the emergence, evolution and spread of foodborne pathogens in the food chain.
Our research focusses on E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter, as the major causes of foodborne illness.
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 which are the major locations for bacterial communities that potentially could impact health.
Comparative genomics will allow us to identify what drives the emergence of antimicrobial resistance as well as other survival strategies, such as the formation of biofilms that resist cleaning, 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. Working strategically with partners on the Norwich Research Park and elsewhere, we will be developing novel approaches to sequencing and genomic analysis to better understand the microbiology of the food chain. This will allow us to identify new intervention strategies 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.