Campylobacter bacteria are the most frequently reported microbes causing foodborne illness in Canada and consequently are an important public health concern. Campylobacter can survive in many environments including soil, manure, aquatic and water sources. The bacteria are also present in many farm and wild animals, with the disease transmission occurring to humans through the consumption of undercooked meat and tainted milk. However, the most common route for human infection is thought to be through poultry consumption. Understanding this microbe in the context of BC’s agrifood system, and poultry production specifically, requires modern genomic tools and approaches to better monitor, prevent and control Campylobacter-related food contamination.
Adopting a “One Health” approach, the project aims to develop novel characterization, detection and biocontrol tools to reduce the impact of Campylobacter in BC’s agrifood chain. High risk Campylobacter isolates from human clinical and environmental samples collected in BC will be sequenced. This information will inform the development of a molecular assay customized and adapted into a user-friendly field deployable device. This low-cost test will aid government and industry stakeholders with their Campylobacter surveillance strategies for food and environmental sources of contamination. Bacterial viruses, called bacteriophages, will be isolated and characterized for their ability to kill Campylobacter specifically. The most promising and food safe bacteriophages will be integrated into a novel biodegradable food packaging material for food processors to reduce the presence of Campylobacter bacteria in raw poultry products.
Significant social and economic benefits to Canada include better Campylobacter surveillance and detection in environment and food systems. The development of a new biodegradable antimicrobial packaging to reduce Campylobacter in raw poultry products will also help position BC as a leader in poultry/food safety.