ANAHEIM — Daniel Salmon did not 125 years ago discover the pathogen Salmonella.  His student Theobald Smith did.  The bacteria has so “befuddled” science since then that Salmon might well have not had his name associated with the whole affair.

salmonella5-featured.jpgA worldwide panel of scientists Tuesday at the annual meeting of the International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) agreed that Salmonella has left them befuddled, with more questions than answers after more than a century of research.

Paula Fedorka-Cray, a researcher for the USDA Agricultural Research Station associated with the University of Georgia at Athens, pointed to over 6,700 research papers on Salmonella that were written between 1923 and 2010, and how many of them are asking the same questions now as they did early in the 20th century.

“We do not know everything that we need to know about Salmonella,” she said.

Salmonella, according to Fedorka-Cray, can be found 40 miles up in the atmosphere, seven miles under the ocean, and up to 24 feet under the ground.   Some strains are harmful to animals, some to humans, and some to both.  Some strains travel widely, and some are limited to certain areas like the DT104 strain which is typically found only in the United Kingdom and the Pacific Northwest.

Julian Cox of the University of New South Wales in Australia presented theories on why some strains of Salmonella travel and some do not.

Jason Richardson, a former University of Georgia researcher now with Coca Cola, said there is a “slugfest” going on between the various serotypes of Salmonella.  “Organisms are different and they are competing to stay alive,” he said.

Differing times and testing methods can produce different results, Richardson said.  One strain might be dominant in a few hours of testing and another after a day.  

Also speaking at “The Salmonella Smorgasbord: The Problem of Too Many Choices” were Shawn Bearson and Mark Berrang, both with the Agricultural Research Station in Athens, and Bob Reinhard from the Sara Lee Corp.

The IAFP annual meeting wraps up today at the Anaheim Convention Center.