About this Research Topic
Microbiological analysis is an integral part of technological food safety quality control and monitoring systems. Recent national wide outbreaks, associated with consumption of different contaminated foods, have highlighted the real difficulty in monitoring critical points of contamination along the food chain. Rapid and precise detection and/or quantification of foodborne pathogens represents a powerful tool to prevent human foodborne outbreaks. For this purpose and particularly for short shelf-life foods, it is necessary to improve available methods and develop innovative and time-effective assays able to complete the analytical process in a short time.
Microbiological testing plays a fundamental role in surveying the microbiological condition of a product, both for facilitating decisions on acceptance or rejection of batches, and for maintenance and validation of HACCP systems. Since the early 1990s, molecular techniques, such as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), have been used extensively to detect foodborne microorganisms in food, because it allows for highly specific and sensitive results to be obtained in a timely manner. Real-time PCR has generated wider acceptance of molecular methods due to its improved rapidity, reduced risk of carry-over contamination, and potential to provide quantitative results. Ideally, rapid methods should produce results equivalent to reference methods (as demonstrated by a validation process) and possess additional characteristics of performance in terms of speed, handiness and high throughput.
Molecular approaches have several advantages compared to cultural methods, but also some critical weaknesses, such as cost of equipment, inability to discriminate between viable and dead cells (or infectious and non-infectious virus particles), and the need to eliminate inhibitors of the reaction. Amplification at a constant temperature represents an attractive and effective alternative method because it does not require a thermocycling system, therefore it is useful especially in low resource settings. Consequently, a new generation of isothermal amplification techniques is gaining wide popularity in diagnostics due to simple operation, rapid reaction, and suitability for miniaturization. Different strategies, such as the use of intercalating dyes (propidium monoazide-PMA and ethidium monoazide -EMA), have been proposed to distinguish viable / infectious targets from dead / non-infectious ones respectively, although further verification of their effectiveness is required.
In order to achieve a full integration of molecular methods in food safety control, drawbacks still need to be addressed and clarified, to create powerful tools for routine rapid detection of microbiological contamination in foodstuffs and to promptly contribute to outbreak investigation by establishing a specific link between the source of contamination and illness. This Research Topic will showcase the latest advances in molecular diagnostics for foodborne bacteria, parasites, and viruses, and provide an invaluable source of up-to-date information for analysts and researchers.
Keywords: PCR, Food Safety, Quality Control, Foodborne Pathogens
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