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sector_ico_Agrifood_trans Agrifood

“One Health” Syst-Omics Approach to Reduce Campylobacter in Agrifood Chain

  • Project Leaders: Xiaonan Lu, William Hsiao
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $517708
  • Program/Competition: Sector Innovation Program
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2019
  • Status: Closed

Each year an estimated 1 in 8 people in Canada get sick from food-related illnesses.  Campylobacter bacteria are the third leading cause of foodborne illnesses and hospitalizations and, consequently, are a significant Canadian public health concern.  Although the bacteria are present in many farms and wild animals, the most common route for human illness is the consumption or handling of undercooked or raw poultry. Therefore, understanding this microbe in the context of BC’s poultry production system requires modern genomic knowledge and tools to better monitor, prevent and control Campylobacter-related food contamination.

The Syst-OMICs project aimed to reduce the Campylobacter burden in the agro-ecosystem to ensure the safety of BC food products like poultry.  Effective reduction of Campylobacter in the agri-food chain requires a multi-pronged “One Health” approach combining genomic-based surveillance, rapid in-field detection, and a novel biocontrol strategy.  In a BC first, sampling Campylobacter throughout the poultry processing steps in a single abattoir using whole genome sequencing (WGS) was piloted to assess the pattern of contamination and provides the basis for further work in deploying WGS routinely for Campylobacter surveillance and outbreak detection in the future. The WGS information also informed the development of a molecular amplification assay that was customized, adapted, and incorporated into a user-friendly microfluidic, paper-based field deployable prototype device.  Finally, proof-of-concept work demonstrated that bacterial viruses, called bacteriophages isolated and characterized for their ability to kill Campylobacter specifically, could be integrated into food packaging material and used as a bactericide to reduce the presence of Campylobacter bacteria in raw poultry products.

Together the Syst-OMICs multipronged approach to detect and characterize Campylobacter in the agro-food system led to the creation of tools and techniques for further development and validation to improve public health surveillance through early detection of Campylobacter and a biocontrol method to reduce the impact of Campylobacter contamination in BC’s agrifood chain.