Discovering new bacterial pathogens
Discovering, accurately describing, and curating new species of bacteria is of central importance to the field of bacteriology. Deposition of this information in databases and the associated live bacteria into culture collections, that are freely available, permits rapid and effective investigation of new clinical threats. Remarkably, every year approximately 600 new species of bacteria are described in published articles and deposited in culture collections. Of these, about 20 are from patients. In our role as a reference laboratory, we receive many clinical bacterial isolates each year that, despite investigation by molecular DNA diagnostics and other advanced tests, remain unidentified. Based on this experience, we believe there exists many more undiscovered bacteria that cause human disease.
In my group we have described several new bacterial species and a new genus from patients to provide a more complete catalogue and understanding of the scope of bacterial pathogens. The data is made public and the bacterium is deposited in two culture collections to conform to international rules for descriptions of new bacterial species.
Salmonella Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) project at the Wadsworth Center
The Wadsworth Center is playing a national leadership role in assessing the potential of whole genome sequencing (WGS) technology to improve detection of foodborne outbreaks and source traceback investigations. Current typing methods do not provide the requisite resolution for certain bacterial strains such as Salmonella serovar Enteritidis (SE). In a recent proof of principle study we sequenced whole genomes of 93 SE isolates that included two outbreak clusters; collaborators at the FDA and Cornell provided bioinformatic analyses. The study demonstrated that implementation of WGS in a state laboratory is feasible and would enhance surveillance and management of SE by revealing previously untraceable outbreaks. We have since sequenced over 1,500 Salmonella genomes and performed all bioinformatic analyses in house as we work towards genomic based surveillance of food borne pathogens.