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Top Story

More scrutiny needed for less-deadly foodborne bacteria

Employing advanced genetic-tracing techniques and sharing the data produced in real time could limit the spread of bacteria -- Bacillus cereus -- which cause foodborne illness, according to researchers who implemented whole-genome sequencing of a pathogen-outbreak investigation. Done in response to an outbreak of foodborne illness in upstate New York in 2016, the project marked the first time researchers conducted whole-genome sequencing to investigate a B. cereus outbreak to link isolates from human clinical cases to food. The outbreak, which lasted less than a month, stemmed from contaminated refried beans served by a small Mexican restaurant chain. Although the toxin-producing bacteria are estimated to cause 63,400 foodborne disease cases per year in the United States, B. cereus does not receive the attention given to more deadly foodborne pathogens such as Listeria and Salmonella.

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