Title: Prospecting environmental mycobacteria: combined molecular approaches reveal unprecedented diversity
Authors: Pontiroli A, Khera TT, Oakley B, Mason S, Dowd SE, Erenso G, Aseffa A, Courtenay O, Wellington EH
Journal: PLoS One
Accepted date: 2013 May 31
Interpretive summary: Many foodborne bacteria that cause illnesses in people (human pathogens) have environmental reservoirs, or natural sources from which they can infect people. Determining the numbers and types of pathogens in the environment is the first step in designing strategies to prevent their transmission from the environment to people. Mycobacterium is an important human and agricultural pathogens. Mycobacterium is usually acquired directly from the environment and can serve as a useful model to understand the importance of environmental reservoirs for other pathogens, including foodborne pathogens. Distinguishing between environmental sources and food sources of infection is an important task for food safety microbiology. For all pathogens, direct environmental surveys are the only accurate approach to properly measure diversity as only a small subset of pathogen types can be grown in the lab. In this study, the authors used state-of-the-art DNA sequencing methods to demonstrate a large diversity and high numbers of pathogens in environments in which human and agricultural uses are mixed, demonstrating that environmental reservoirs can be important sources of infection. This result has important implications for preventing human infection by foodborne pathogens, nearly all of which have large environmental reservoirs.
Publication date: 2013 Jul 18