The US-based company said tests have already been developed for E. coli O157:H7, the type of shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) most frequently associated with global food contamination outbreaks. But the company will partner the USDA after identifying a gap that currently exists in assays to detect other strains. DuPont characterised the non-0157 types as an “emerging threat to the food supply”.
“In recent years, other types of STEC have been identified as agents of foodborne illness, and these are a growing concern in the United States, Europe, Japan and food safety agencies worldwide”, said a statement from the firm.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimate that non-O157 STEC bacteria are responsible for 36,000 illnesses, 1,000 hospitalizations and 30 deaths annually. The majority of these infections have been associated with six specific serotypes: STEC 026, 045, 0103, O111, O121 and O145.
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) will be working with DuPont to develop an effective test for the ‘Big 6’ non-O157 STEC pathogens in food.
“The USDA continually looks for opportunities to collaborate in ways that will expedite research to assist regulatory agencies and move technologies into the marketplace,” said Pina Fratamico, USDA ARS research microbiologist. “This collaborative project to develop a discriminating STEC test is a good fit with our mission.”
The UDSA already uses DuPont’s BAX System to monitor for E.coli 0157:H7 bacteria. The automated system uses a range of methods – including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, tableted reagents and optimized media to detect Salmonella, Listeria species, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, Enterobacter sakazakii, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio, and yeast and mold.
“Our DNA-based technology is easy to use, rapid and accurate, and provides the food industry with a simple and reliable test system to help assure protection of the global food supply,” said Marcos Cantharino, the company’s global business director.