Scientists at Cornell University's Food Safety Lab are working on an innovative method to quickly detect and identify strains of salmonella, making it possible for health and safety authorities to rapidly respond to foodborne disease outbreaks.

The team of researchers is currently working in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health on developing and improving existing DNA sequencing techniques. The new approach is believed able to provide speed and precision of results, unlike traditional lab tests for assessing bacteria. Such tests often fail to identify the specific strains of bacteria, as well as their relationship and if they originate from a common source. These details can help researchers trace the source of contamination quickly and can facilitate efforts to contain the outbreak, according to Cornell University's website.

Research associate Henk den Bakker explained that variations in the genome of salmonella are so minute that it is almost impossible for traditional tests to differentiate between the different types in case of an outbreak. Thanks to the technique the research team uses, known as rapid whole-genome sequencing, finding all the specifics about the pathogens gives investigators better opportunities to react in case of an outbreak, commented William Wolfgang, with the NYSDOH. The method can also reveal whether an outbreak is isolated, sporadic or a part of a cluster, he added.