Genomic Data to Drive New Generation of Cyclospora Detection Techniques

Promising research to improve Cyclospora detection techniques will help scientists better understand and prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by the parasite.

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By Elizabeth Brewster

Promising research to improve Cyclospora detection techniques will help scientists better understand and prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by the parasite, predicts Alexandre DaSilva, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

raspberry field during harvest“Food items such as raspberries, basil, lettuce, and other fresh produce have been implicated in many [Cyclospora] outbreaks,” DaSilva says in IFT20 session 223. The prevalence of Cyclospora is now a worldwide event, and in the United States, Cyclospora is responsible for 54% of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by parasites, along with 64% of illnesses and 80% of hospitalizations due to outbreaks caused by parasites, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Combating Cyclospora outbreaks can be challenging, says Gary V. Breda, McDonald’s, because of the parasite’s unique resistance to sanitizers and disinfectants, the lack of an indicator organism, and the complexity of detection due to the unclear interaction between parasite and plant tissue. In 2016, FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM) Chapter 19B was validated for molecular detection of Cyclospora cayetanensis (the only species of Cyclospora known to infect humans) using a produce wash procedure, isolation of DNA from the produce wash, and identification by PCR amplification.

Today, researchers are helping to expand detection techniques and link a higher percentage of Cyclospora infections to case clusters by tackling a number of challenges, including the following:

  • Developing a new generation of molecular detection and genotyping techniques based on available genomic data
  • Populating the CycloTrakr, an FDA database designed to consolidate Cyclospora cayetanensis genome sequences, with sequences from clinical and environmental samples obtained from different geographical areas where Cyclospora has been identified as a public health issue
  • Validating new generation molecular methods for regulatory detection of Cyclospora cayetanensis
  • Understanding how contamination of produce takes place at various levels
  • Determining prevalence of Cyclospora cayetanensis in food and in certain environmental samples that may impact food safety
  • Validating BAM Chapter 19B methods on a variety of food matrices

For more insights into helping to protect against Cyclospora outbreaks, view this session in the on-demand catalog.

Registration for SHIFT20 provides access to the on-demand library of sessions for a full year.

Kelly Hensel

Senior Digital Editor, IFT

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