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USDA Supporting CVM Salmonella Research

Food borne pathogens remain a leading public health concern in the U.S. and throughout the world. One of the scientists interested in the “farm to fork” safety of food is Dr. Siddhartha (Sid) Thakur with the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).

Dr. Thakur, an assistant professor of swine health and reproduction in the CVM Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, seeks to understand the molecular epidemiology of drug-resistant pathogens. His current research into the occurrence of Salmonella in pigs is recognized with two grants from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). One grant of $592,000 is part of the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative. The second grant, a $389,000 “New Investigator Award,” is provided by the USDA National Research Initiative.

The funding supports an ongoing investigation into how often pigs that have not been given anti-microbial drugs harbor antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella. This is an important question with the increase in demand for “naturally grown” pork from untreated pigs. The results will be compared to those from commercial pigs where antimicrobials are used. The research involves taking samples from pig populations, their environments, and pork processing plants to determine the strains of the Salmonella pathogen that these pigs may be exposed to, as well as the sources of transmission in these various environments.

Salmonella is responsible for causing the most number of bacterial food-borne illnesses in the U.S., affecting up to 1.5 million people annually. Dr. Thakur believes that the information from the study will help protect the general population from food-borne illness, and enable pork producers to better prevent and control outbreaks.

“It’s vital that we protect our food supply from Salmonella contamination,” Dr. Thakur says. “The results of this study will be a win-win situation for the farmers of North Carolina, who will receive information vital to the health of their farm animals, and for the consumers who can be certain that their food supply is safe.”

Dr. Thakur’s Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory is part of the CVM Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research. The CCMTR is a community of more than 100 scientists from five NC State University colleges. These investigators are involved in collaborative ”One Health” studies with government, private, and other academic researchers to advance knowledge and practical applications that improve the health of animals and humans.

Posted Oct. 5, 2010