ShareThis Page

Penn State researchers zero in on Salmonella ID

| Thursday, May 30, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

Penn State researchers report they have found a faster method of identifying Salmonella strains, which could help health officials more quickly discover the source of food-poisoning outbreaks.

“We need to be able to trace outbreaks as soon as they happen,” said Nikki Shariat, a molecular microbiology postdoctoral researcher in the school's food science department and lead author of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology's May issue.

The method, which can pinpoint a strain within a day, focuses on DNA sequence and can detect strain-specific differences. That's compared with up to three days for the most commonly used method, Shariat said.

“It can be accurate, but it also can be a bit ambiguous,” Shariat said. “Ours isn't ambiguous.”

Shariat and fellow researchers used Salmonella samples provided by the state Department of Health, including from an outbreak last summer associated with tomatoes that sickened 37 people statewide.

So far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled six mass food-poisonings associated with Salmonella as outbreaks. Two outbreaks affected people in Pennsylvania, one tied to live poultry and the other to ground beef.

State and Allegheny County health officials could not be reached for comment.

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause intestinal illness. Salmonella serotype Typhimurium and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis are the most common in the United States, the CDC says. Salmonellosis sickens 40,000 people nationwide each year and kills an estimated 600.

For every reported case, 29 go unreported, the CDC estimates.

Symptoms including diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps develop 12 hours to three days after infection. The illness can last up to a week. Severe cases can require hospitalization.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.