Hygiena, a Camarillo, Calif.-based Warburg Pincus-portfolio company that specializes in rapid food safety and environmental sanitation testing, has issued a white paper demonstrating that the RiboPrinter microbial characterization system, which uses ribotyping to conduct “DNA fingerprinting” identification of bacteria to the strain level, works as a viable alternative to whole genome sequencing (WGS), the company said.
The white paper explores how WGS and ribotyping work and compares other techniques that have been used to identify microbes, particularly pathogens. While WGS has been adopted by federal regulators such as FDA, its widespread use in food safety has been limited by cost, the need for expertise, and management of data.
A September 2017 poll of 100 food processors showed that 93% of responding companies said they would not be using WGS. One reason for this reluctance is the cost of WGS technology and bioinformatics analysis, while another is the expertise needed to run the sequencing test as well as analyze the data. A third reason is that WGS may be too successful at identification. Any data uncovered would be legally discoverable and reportable to the FDA, whether it ultimately ends up pointing to a pathogen or not.
Ribotyping using the RiboPrinter System has been shown to be simple and automated enough that users do not need expertise in its underlying techniques. It is a powerful, cost-effective and labor-saving addition to any microbial analysis and could provide a valuable alternative to a WGS laboratory as an important component of an overall food safety plan to protect the world’s food supply against pathogens.