Harnessing the Power of Whole-Genome Sequencing in Real-Time Surveillance of Listeria Monocytogenes

Whole-Genome Sequencing: Revolutionizing Surveillance of Listeria Monocytogenes

Traditional Food Safety Practices

Over the years, food safety has relied heavily on phenotypic and molecular subtyping techniques. These traditional methods have served as the backbone for identifying foodborne disease outbreaks, pinpointing pathogenic sources in food contamination, and tracing these origins across the food supply chain. However, the integration of molecular and nucleic acid-based subtyping has redefined the landscape, offering enhanced precision and accuracy.

The Emergence of PulseNet

The year 1996 marked a turning point in this scientific journey, with the establishment of PulseNet in the U.S. Initially focusing on Escherichia coli O157:H7 subtype characterization, PulseNet broadened its focus to include other pathogens, evolving into a global network. The implementation of a standardized subtyping method for bacterial pathogens resulted in a significant leap in the ability to detect foodborne disease outbreaks.

Whole-Genome Sequencing: The Next Frontier

Undeniably, the substantial impact of PulseNet and similar molecular subtyping methods on food safety is irrefutable. However, the emerging adoption of Whole-Genome Sequencing (WGS) for foodborne pathogen subtyping is set to further revolutionize our capacity to detect and manage foodborne disease outbreaks.

The Challenges of WGS

Although WGS offers maximum resolution for DNA-based characterization, interpreting the data remains a challenging task. This is particularly true when attempting to discern whether two genetically identical isolates share a recent common ancestor, thereby establishing a cause-and-effect relationship.

The Importance of Constant Learning

As the WGS revolution takes shape in the food safety realm, all stakeholders must stay abreast of its evolving applications and potential future uses. This is paramount for food safety professionals as these advancements extend to areas such as food spoilage, authenticity, and fraud detection.

The Rise of Next-Generation Sequencing

The advent of rapid-sequencing methods, commonly known as “next-generation sequencing” methods, has made routine WGS of bacterial isolates a viable option. These new tools facilitate affordable bacterial genome sequencing, with today’s platforms enabling sequencing for less than $50 per isolate.

Real-Time Whole-Genome Sequencing of Listeria Monocytogenes

The recent application of real-time whole-genome sequencing of Listeria monocytogenes showcases the potential of WGS in revolutionizing our ability to detect and manage foodborne pathogens.


The progressive adoption of Whole-Genome Sequencing in food safety promises significant strides in the timely and accurate detection of foodborne disease outbreaks. By embracing constant learning and adaptation, food safety professionals can harness the full potential of this transformative technology.