£1.5m in funds for salmonella study

Three institutions have been awarded a total of £1.5m by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to collaborate on new research into salmonella which will look at ways in which future outbreaks of disease can be prevented.

Research teams, headed by Professor Duncan Maskell, the Marks & Spencer professor of farm animal health, food science and food safety at the University of Cambridge, Dr Mark Stevens at the Institute for Animal Health, Compton, and Professor Ian Charles at University College London, will use state-of-the-art technology to assess the role of every gene of salmonella in infecting cattle, pigs and chickens.

This work will be fundamental to the eventual development of intervention strategies, including animal vaccines, with the intention of reducing the amount of salmonella bacteria passed from infected animals to humans.

Bacteria of the species salmonella enterica causes millions of bouts of gastric illness and thousands of deaths each year worldwide. Researchers believe that the number of cases of salmonella poisonings may be underestimated, with the actual figure approaching hundreds of millions.

"The outcome of this project will be that we can identify and assign roles to all salmonella genes required for the infection of food-producing animals. We hope that this will lead to novel vaccines or treatments to reduce gastrointestinal diseases in animals and humans," explained Professor Maskell.

Before a vaccine can be developed, he said, researchers need to understand how some salmonella strains can infect certain animals and not others, and why some infections remain in the gut but some spread.

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