Research – Use of Whole Genome Sequencing by the Federal Interagency Collaboration for Genomics for Food and Feed Safety in the United States

Journal of Food Protection

This multiagency report developed by the Interagency Collaboration for Genomics for Food and Feed Safety provides an overview of the use of and transition to whole genome sequencing (WGS) technology for detection and characterization of pathogens transmitted commonly by food and for identification of their sources. We describe foodborne pathogen analysis, investigation, and harmonization efforts among the following federal agencies: National Institutes of Health; Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. We describe single nucleotide polymorphism, core-genome, and whole genome multilocus sequence typing data analysis methods as used in the PulseNet (CDC) and GenomeTrakr (FDA) networks, underscoring the complementary nature of the results for linking genetically related foodborne pathogens during outbreak investigations while allowing flexibility to meet the specific needs of Interagency Collaboration partners. We highlight how we apply WGS to pathogen characterization (virulence and antimicrobial resistance profiles) and source attribution efforts and increase transparency by making the sequences and other data publicly available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information. We also highlight the impact of current trends in the use of culture-independent diagnostic tests for human diagnostic testing on analytical approaches related to food safety and what is next for the use of WGS in the area of food safety.

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