In this April 12, 2018 photo, scientist Karen Xavier holds a petri dish containing a stool sample of small bacteria colonies in Denver. DNA from samples like these are extracted and sequenced to help health investigators more quickly determine the source of a food borne illness outbreak.(AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)

Genetic sleuthing bolsters food poisoning searches

April 26, 2018 - 1:01 am

ATLANTA (AP) — Disease hunters are using genetic sequencing in their investigation of the ongoing food poisoning outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.

It's a technique that is revolutionizing the detection of germs in food. The genetic analysis is being used to bolster investigations and connect the dots between what were once seemingly unrelated illnesses. It also is uncovering previously unfathomed sources of food poisoning.

By the end of this year, labs in all 50 states are expected to also be using genetic sequencing for common causes of food poisoning outbreaks, including salmonella and the E. coli bacteria linked to recent lettuce outbreak.

That means the number of identifiable outbreaks are likely to explode even if the number of illnesses don't. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 48 million Americans get food poisoning each year.

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