The approach of Thanksgiving often comes with annual reminders about preparing your food safely to avoid illnesses due to Salmonella. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates Salmonella causes nearly 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States every year, and most of these infections are due to the consumption of contaminated meat, especially poultry. Illnesses rise during times of increased meat consumption, such as the Thanksgiving holiday.
Tim Johnson, a professor of poultry microbiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, shares his expert analysis on the utilization of cutting-edge genomics that enables poultry producers to identify and eliminate high-risk Salmonella — potentially thwarting outbreaks before they ever occur.
Tim Johnson, Ph.D.
“Whole genome sequencing has been used for over a decade by regulatory agencies such as CDC and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to study the transmission of Salmonella from food animals to humans, and the corresponding outbreaks that occur. However, this approach is largely reactive to human illnesses, and accepts that the burden of disease is destined to occur. Poultry producers want to be proactive about the safety of their products.
“Our research group is focused on developing tools that enable poultry producers to identify high-risk Salmonella in their flocks before they ever reach the grocery stores. We have analyzed over 200,000 Salmonella genomes from poultry products and cases of human illness. Using this information, we have developed a genetic atlas of Salmonella. This atlas guides a risk tool that couples genetic information with benchtop experiments to identify the bad players capable of causing severe human illness.
“Our goal is to provide this pipeline to producers in a “plug-and-play” format, capable of quickly telling a producer if a new, high-risk strain of Salmonella has emerged in their system. These tools are available to poultry producers both online and at the Mid-Central Research and Outreach Center in Willmar, Minnesota. These tools provide a rapid and simple way for poultry companies to identify problematic Salmonella – before it causes an outbreak of human illness – and respond appropriately to eliminate bad strains from their flocks.”
Tim Johnson, Ph.D., is a professor of poultry microbiology in The College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Johnson's research and outreach program is focused on the genetic mechanisms enabling the spread of antibiotic resistance in Enterobacteriaceae in both human and animal populations. His work aims to identify antibiotic alternatives that manipulate the animal microbiome allowing for enhanced growth and reduced disease.
About the College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine affects the lives of animals and people every day through educational, research, service, and outreach programs. Established in 1947, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine is Minnesota’s only veterinary college. Fully accredited, the college has graduated over 4,000 veterinarians and hundreds of scientists. The college is also home to the Veterinary Medical Center, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the Leatherdale Equine Center and The Raptor Center. To learn more, visit vetmed.umn.edu.