EFSA | European Food Safety Authority

Molecular typing Fingerprinting of foodborne pathogens

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Outbreak Investigation

Increasingly, scientists are using a technique called molecular typing or DNA fingerprinting to investigate foodborne outbreaks and pinpoint their source. This technique is also used in forensic medicine.

What is Molecular Typing?

Molecular typing is a way of identifying specific strains of microorganisms, such as bacteria or viruses, by looking at their genetic material. It is mainly used to pinpoint the source of foodborne outbreaks. It can also be used to identify which microorganisms are:

  • Most virulent and cause serious diseases
  • Resistant to antibiotics
  • Able to survive and multiply
how does it work?
how does it work?

How does it work?

Example: Whole Genome Sequencing

Through whole genome sequencing, scientists

1 Isolate bacteria both from a sick person and a food item.

If scientists find a match, they can accurately identify the food responsible for the outbreak.

Once the food origin is identified, it is easier to control the outbreak.

Molecular typing techniques are transforming the way that scientists identify and investigate outbreaks of foodborne diseases. The wealth of data is opening up exciting areas of research and innovative techniques for safeguarding Europe’s food.