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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 11, Issue 3, Pages 142-153
BIOP '99

How Novel Methods Can Help Discover More Information about Foodborne Pathogens

Mansel W Griffiths

Department of Food Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2000 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Considerable emphasis is being placed on quantitative risk assessment modelling as a basis for regulation of trade in food products. However, for models to be accurate, information about the behaviour of potential pathogens in foods needs to be available. The question is how to obtain this knowledge in a simple and cost effective way. One technique that has great potential is the use of reporter bacteria which have been genetically modified to express a phenotype that can be easily monitored, such as light production in luminescent organisms. Bacteria carrying these (lux) genes can easily be detected using simple luminometers or more sophisticated low light imaging equipment.

By monitoring light output from these bacteria over time, it can easily be determined if the organism is growing (resulting in an increase in light emission), is dead (causing a decrease in light production) or is injured (light output remains constant). The use of imaging systems allows the response of bioluminescent bacteria to be studied directly on the food, making the technique even more useful. Applications of bioluminescence are discussed below and include use as reporters of gene expression; biocide efficacy and antibiotic susceptibility; sub-lethal injury; adhesion and biofilm formation; the microbial ecology of foods; pathogenesis; and as biosensors.