The Food and Drug Administration has reported that their scientists have successfully applied a new genome-sequencing assay to determine the source of an outbreak of Salmonella montevideo.

Approximately 300 consumers of processed meat products were affected in 44 states, with the peak of cases in November 2009. Next-generation sequencing on 35 samples of cold cuts identified the common origin of the outbreak to a single food plant and identified the vehicle, a spiced meat rub. The investigation, which was published in the Feb. 23, 2011, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrated that the technique was superior to conventional pulse-field gel electrophoresis, which is less specific than NGS technology. The assay was able to eliminate other potential sources of infection which yielded an S. montevideo with an identical PFGE pattern.

The significance of this report is that the FDA is now equipped at a higher level to identify the origin of SE outbreaks with absolute precision. Additional information and the history of the outbreak updated can be assessed on the Centers for Disease Control website.