Sharing Molecular Techniques for Food Borne Pathogen Detection

Place: Milano, italy, Europe
Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health Food consumption patterns: diet, environment, society, economy and health
Total Budget: € 210.000,00 | Period: From April 2010 To October 2011


FoBoS directly aims to improve the quality of life by developing and implementing a good practice useful for food-borne pathogen early detection. A safe food supply is a major public health and economic issue in Europe, both for foods consumed within the EU area and those produced there and exported. The consequences of food-borne diseases are particularly hazardous for infants and elderly people, as well as the chronically ill patients. A balanced team, in which three University research group blended with five private company Partners, has analyzed and implemented a DNA-array based protocol, that has been already proven successful in detection of mastitis bacteria in milk, to the field of food analysis. Protocol was validated in dairy and meat derived food and is ready to be transferred to the agro-food and meal distribution companies, as well as other relevant and interested stakeholders for their implementation on HACCP and other food-chain critical points.


University of Milan, Department of Veterinary Science and Public Health - Italy

Lead applicant

Il Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie e Sanità Pubblica (DIVET) svolge attività di ricerca e didattica nell'ambito della medicina veterinaria, della sanità pubblica e della sicurezza degli alimenti. Obiettivo è la promozione della salute e del benessere dell’animale e dell’uomo, anche nella loro interazione con l’ambiente. L’attività di ricerca riguarda lo studio delle attività funzionali e produttive degli animali, delle patologie infettive e non infettive, della genetica, dell’etologia, delle tecnologie e dei modelli per l’allevamento, della gestione igienico-sanitaria degli animali e della sicurezza degli alimenti. Un’ulteriore attività del Divet è quella che lo vede coinvolto anche in programmi di ricerca e cooperazione allo sviluppo in ambito extraeuropeo, tropicale e subtropicale.

Estonian University of Life Sciences - Estonia

Initiative partner

The Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences was formed on January 1, 2005 by amalgamation of the Institute of Animal Science, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and the Estonian Agrobiocentre of the former Estonian Agricultural University. Institute's responsibility is to provide science based teaching and research in veterinary medicine, animal sciences, and meat and dairy technology to respond to the needs of the agricultural and food industry. Research conducted by the departments and working groups of the Institute involves almost all aspects of the “from farm to fork” production and processing chain of animal products. Institute has totally more than 215 emploees. Department of food sciences and hygiene includes teaching and research staff, technicians and several PhD students. Department is well experienced in life-long learning activities and involvement of public bodies. The laboratories of the Department of Food Science and Hygiene of the EMÜ are well equipped, recently renovated and well functioning units.

Molecular Genetics Veterinary Service. Department of Animal and Food Science. University of Barcelona - Spain

Initiative partner

The Department of Animal and Food Science was created in September 1st, 2000. Before that, the field of Animal and Food Science belonged to the Department of Pathology and Animal Sciences. The Department is divided in two Departmental Units: Animal Science: It focus its interest in the field Animal Production. It has the responsibility of organising, co-ordinating and developing the teaching and research activities related to agriculture, animal production, animal nutrition, and animal genetics and genetic improvement. Food Sciences: It focus its interest in the field of food health and quality, and food technology. It has the responsibility of organising, co-ordinating and developing teaching and research activities related to food health and quality, and food technology. Researchers from the Department are involved in national and international competitive research projects with public and private funding. The Department is committed to the task of transferring research results into field application through several research services and research units, as the Animal and Field Experimental Farm Service, the Special Unit for Food Technology Research and the Veterinary Molecular Genetics Service. The last two Centres belong to the Network of Innovative Technology Centres (TECNIO) of the Centre for the Information and Business Development (ACCIO) of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

Fobos aims to improve the quality of life by developing and implementing a DNA-array based good practice for early detection of food pathogens

Main innovation of the project is the development of a DNA-array based molecular procedure allowing an early, and chep, detection of food pathogens in  meat derived and dairy food. This good practice has bene shown to be economically competitive and has a sensitivity comparable to the practices so far regarded as golden standards for food pathogen detections. Main advantage is that the protocol does not require any preventive enrichment, thus allowing allow the identification of the contaminants in few hours.

The technique has been designed for both third world countries, where the food safety is an issue, and the Western world (e.g. EU and USA). Although they are more prevalent in developing countries, the impact of food-borne pathogens on human health can be substantial in more developed countries as well. Just as an example, in Netherland there are an estimated 80000 cases of Campylobacteriosis per year. Global trade in food from animal origin is increasing exponentially, in particular that from countries where food analysis standards are not as high as in, for example, EU. Therefore, FoBoS addresses a global issue, not just a regional one.

Most of the  estimated 2.5 million childhood deaths annually worldwide due to intestinal diseases are caused by food-borne pathogens. The cost of these diseases is very high. More important, a number of affected people variable from one to one hundred and one to one thousand can develop very sever life-threatening diseases. The procedure does nod ned a pre-enrichment, neither is biased from the requirement of a specific target to aim to. On the contrary, it provides quite faster (less than three hours) a preliminary response of a specific pathogen in the biological specimen and to cleaasify them in an univoal way, simultaneously for twenty different food-borne pathogens

Generally speaking, infants and elderly people, in particular the chronically ill patients, are at major risk for diseases caused by pathogen organisms present in food. Moreover, once affected, they are more likely to be hospitalized, and mortality rate climbs up to 10 times higher than those among the general population affected by the same diseases. Many elderly people suffer by clinical complications, and it is believed that 2-3% of food borne diseases eventually lead to chronic conditions.

The original Consortium consisted of eight partners from three European countries, including three European Public Institution with a wide experience in food analysis and pathogen detection with complementary expertise in biochemistry, molecular biology and pathology and diagnosis, that developed the procedure. FoBoS consortium comprised also FIVE private companies, adding their expertise of their internal research centres  to the staff work involved in the project. The reasources involved in the project were 210000€, coming from a EU program (INTERREG IVC), project Innovation4Welfare (http://www.innovation4welfare.eu/297/subprojects/fobos.html)

The main obstacle encountered during the design was technical and consisted in troubles encountered in finding the same experimental conditions for all the food pathogens addressed by the procedure. At the end, we had to discard some of them pathogens, but we developed a procedure suitable to detect 20 foodborne pathogens in complex alimentary matrices such as milk, cheese and meat. The list of targets include, among the others, Listeria spp., Salmonella spp., Shigella spp., Escherichia coli spp., Campylobacter spp., Clostridium spp. and Staphylococcus aureus. During the implementation, it was difficult to scalie up the project from a pilot stage, which is anyway suitable for laboratory researchm, to a true industrial field.

One of the main strength point of the procedure is that it is direct, e.g. the targets are identified direcly from alimentary matrices, without any preliminary enrichment step meaning that, given the background of an alimentary food chain, there is no way to contaminate the chain itself, or the analysis laboratory. Further advantages are that this procedure is poised to reduce the bacterial pollution in the environment, including hazardous wastes such as contaminated Petri disces or other disponsable plastic ware.

The initiative generated several posters and one paper: Cremonesi  P et al, Development of 23 individual TaqMan® real-time PCR assays for identifying common foodborne pathogens using a single set of amplification conditions. Food Microbiol. 2014 Oct;43:35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.fm.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 26. PubMed PMID: 24929880, which provided the necessary validation of the procedure by the scientific community. The protocol already provided to the community an economic and fast way to detect bacteria in food.

The proocedure was presented in several meetings, including two MRAMA meeting (WORKSHOP MÉTODOS RÁPIDOS Y AUTOMATIZACIÓN EN MICROBIOLOGÍA ALIMENTARIA) held in barcelona, and Regional meeting focused on implementation of pilot initiatives, held in Tartu (Estonia), Milano (Italy) and Linz (Austria). A Brochure was produced and disseminated, as included below.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Brochure FoBoS The Brochure was aimed to present the project and its posisble advantages for food safety.