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British Columbia Team to Study Campylobacter Omics With $500K in Genome BC, Genome Canada Funding

NEW YORK – A team led by researchers from the University of British Columbia and the BC Centre for Disease Control has received $500,000 from Genome BC and Genome Canada for a multi-omics study of the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter.

Campylobacteriosis is the most frequently reported bacterial foodborne illness in Canada, outnumbering the reported cases of Listeria, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli infections combined. Campylobacter contamination also has a significant economic impact on the poultry industry as different domesticated and wild birds are natural reservoirs for the bacterium.

As part of the newly funded study, UBC's Xiaonan Lu and BCCDC's William Hsiao will implement a multi-pronged approach by developing and integrating novel characterization, detection, and biocontrol tools to reduce Campylobacter in BC's agri-food chain, according to a project abstract.

"We will apply whole-genome sequencing and analysis to characterize the clinical and environmental Campylobacter isolates collected in BC," the abstract states. "These isolates will also be tested in the laboratory for their virulence level. We will customize our detection and control of high-risk Campylobacter isolates based on their genotypic, phenotypic, and epidemiological characteristics."

In addition, the researchers will use WGS data to develop a new molecular assay for the detection of Campylobacter in environmental and agri-food samples.

"We will also isolate Campylobacter bacteriophages followed by WGS characterization of their genomes to ensure the absence of virulence genes in these phages so they can be used as a biocontrol strategy once their host ranges and persistence in the environment are determined," the researchers noted.

"Our work will offer significant social and economic benefits to Canada including better Campylobacter surveillance and detection in environment and food systems," Lu said in a statement.

This project is funded through Genome BC's Sector Innovation Program, which is designed to bring industry and academia together to find solutions for challenges in certain sectors. The project also received funding through Genome Canada's Regional Priorities Partnership Program (RP3).