Australia has more salmonella outbreaks than any other country in the world, with the number of cases doubling over the last decade.
Over the past month alone, there have been numerous reports of the salmonella pathogen infecting eggs, leading to vast recalls of products and sparking calls from experts for more stringent hygiene practices.
In a study published in Scientific Reports, University of Sydney researchers developed a model that can predict outbreaks several months in advance.
While this prediction can provide early warning signs for disease surveillance and enable a more timely and precise allocation of health resources, the team discovered future salmonella outbreaks are likely to become more severe.
Led by the Director of Complex Systems Research Group Professor Mikhail Prokopenko, the team used 2008-2016 strain data to demonstrate that genetic networks of salmonella pathogens are linked through just a few degrees of separation, indicating an increasing severity of future epidemics.
“The data on salmonella outbreaks in NSW in the last decade or so highlights a continuing “arms race” between pathogens and their human hosts,” explained Professor Prokopenko.
“In a classical Darwinian evolution scenario, the pathogens spread over time by initially creating many mutated variants, with the more infectious “clones” soon becoming the most dominant within their own population,” he explained.