As demand for meat and dairy products increases across the world, much attention has landed on how livestock impact the environment, from land usage to greenhouse gas emissions. Now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are highlighting another effect from animals raised for food and the humans who eat them: the waste they all leave behind.
By analyzing genomic sequences from more than 400 strains of the bacterium that causes anthrax, researchers have provided the first evidence that the severity — technically known as virulence — of specific strains may be related to the number of copies of certain plasmids they carry. Plasmids are genetic structures of the cell that can reproduce independently, and are responsible for producing the anthrax toxin and other virulence factors.
A group of Georgia Tech researchers has received $340,000 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to better understand how poultry feeding operations in Georgia potentially introduce antibiotic-resistant pathogens into the nearby environment.
A new testing methodology based on metagenomics could accelerate the diagnosis of foodborne bacterial outbreaks, allowing public health officials to identify the microbial culprits in less than a day. The methodology could also identify co-infections with secondary microbes, determine the specific variant of the pathogen, and help alert health officials to the presence of new or unusual pathogens.