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Food Bugs to Meet Sequencers

Sequencing is helping researchers trace and better understand outbreaks like the ongoing romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak in the US, the Associated Press reports.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 84 people in 19 states have been sickened by E. coli O157:H7, with 42 people being hospitalized. The infections have been linked to romaine lettuce grow near Yuma, Arizona.

The CDC has been using whole-genome sequencing to connect different listeria outbreaks, but the AP says the agency is expanding its program to include other outbreak sources, including E. coli and Salmonella and is equipping labs in all 50 states for sequencing analysis. This, the AP says, could help public health officials spot potential outbreaks before anyone gets sick.

While sequencing played a role in characterizing the ongoing romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak, the CDC's Matthew Wise tells the AP "that's not how we first detected the outbreak." He adds, though, that it was crucial for investigating a salmonella outbreak affecting beef last year. "Using our previous technology," he adds, "we would have had a really difficult time solving that one."