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Unmasking The Genes Of Food-Poisoning Campylobacter

Date:
October 11, 2004
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
The "juice" that always seems to leak out of those packages of fresh chicken you bring home from the supermarket can make a big mess on your kitchen counter. But more importantly, the juice can pose a hazard to your health. Nasty microbes called Campylobacter jejuni can live in that liquid and on the skin of fresh, uncooked poultry.
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Microarrays, or gene chips, enable scientists to get a quick look at thousands of genes in a single experiment. Here, technician Sharon Horn monitors robotic equipment as it imprints Campylobacter microarrays on glass slides.
Credit: Photo by Peggy Greb.

What's your favorite way to prepare chicken? Whether you grill, fry, roast or bake it, as long as you cook it thoroughly, you'll kill any Campylobacter jejuni food-poisoning bacteria that may be on or in it.

But raw chicken juice, or raw or undercooked chicken, could harbor this microbe and lead to campylobacteriosis food poisoning. In fact, Campylobacter is thought to be the leading cause of food poisoning worldwide.

To foil Campylobacter, Agricultural Research Service scientists in Albany, Calif., and their colleagues at The Institute for Genomic Research, Rockville, Md., have decoded the sequence, or structure, of all of the genes in a specially selected C. jejuni strain.

Investigations of these C. jejuni genes may lead to the discovery of faster, more reliable ways to detect the microbe in samples from food, animals, humans and water.

What's more, the gene-based research opens the door to simpler, less-expensive tactics for distinguishing look-alike species and strains of Campylobacter and its close relatives, so that culprit microbes in food poisoning outbreaks can be fingered more quickly.

Finally, the studies may lead to innovative, environmentally friendly techniques to circumvent the genes that make C. jejuni strains so successful in causing human gastrointestinal upset and, in some cases, paralysis or even death.

The research represents the first time that a C. jejuni strain from a farm animal--in this case, a market chicken--has been sequenced. That farm-animal origin is important, because chicken is the leading source of this bacterium in food. Earlier C. jejuni genome sequencing, done elsewhere, was based on a specimen from a gastroenteritis patient and was lacking key features, such as the ability to colonize chickens.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Unmasking The Genes Of Food-Poisoning Campylobacter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041011075926.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2004, October 11). Unmasking The Genes Of Food-Poisoning Campylobacter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041011075926.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Unmasking The Genes Of Food-Poisoning Campylobacter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/10/041011075926.htm (accessed September 2, 2015).

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