Some of the world’s top scientists are gathering at Penn State next week for an invitation-only workshop to discuss how to reach a consensus on techniques to identify new serotypes of E. coli.

Penn State’s 50-year-old E. coli Reference Center is hosting the international meeting.

“We hope the workshop here can lead to a consensus,” said Ed Dudley, associate professor of food science at Penn State’s College of Agriculture Sciences. “The international panel will write a proposal for the rest of the global community — providing guidelines for replacing the 80-year-old method of serotyping with something better — and in the process change the way we do this crucial analytical technique for the best-studied bacterium on the planet.”

Dudley, himself a well-known E. coli researcher, says the workshop will involve scientists from nine countries. He said there’s “insufficient agreement” on how to get new serotypes accepted by the world community at a time when additional discoveries through DNA sequencing are occurring.

Penn State’s E. coli Reference Center — with the world’s most extensive E. coli collection of isolates that have come from food and animals — is one of just a handful of places in the world routinely doing the tests.

According to Dudley, the identification of surface structures test called the lipopolysaccharide dates back to the 1940s. He says because DNA sequencing is becoming dirt-cheap, several ways have been proposed to convert the current assay to a molecular one.

Several top experts are attending the workshop, with funding from the Janssen Vaccines and the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Office for Research and Graduate Education. They include:

  • Flemming Scheutz, head of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Escherichia coli and Klebsiella, Denmark
  • Linda Chui, molecular program leader, Provincial Laboratory for Public Health, University of Alberta, Canada
  • Atshushi Iguchi, associate professor, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Miyazaki, Japan
  • Stefano Morabito, senior scientist and deputy director, European Union Reference Laboratory for E. coli Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety Departments, Istituto Superiore di Sanitá, Italy
  • Claire Jenkins, head of E. coli Reference Services, Public Health, England
  • Angelika Fruth, National Reference Center for Salmonella and Other Enteric Pathogens, Robert Koch Institute, Germany
  • Sara Christianson, head of Reference Services Lab, Public Health Agency, Canada
  • Patrick Fach, senior research scientist, Laboratory for Food Safety, French Agency for Food, Environment, and Occupational Health and Safety, France
  • Sabine Delannoy, research scientist, Laboratory for Food Safety, French Agency for Food, Environment, and Occupational Health and Safety, France
  • Adrian Cookson, senior scientist, AgResearch, Hamilton, New Zealand
  • Peter Reeves, professor of microbiology, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Eleven scientists from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Penn State and other American academic institutions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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