Research Fields



Food safety issues like antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food-producing animals and food products is of growing global concern as its related human health, social and economic costs are increasing. The global annual death toll from antibiotic-resistant bacteria (presently 700,000) is expected to rise to 10 million by 2050, if no mitigation of present practices is introduced (note: current global death toll from cancer: 7-8 million). The emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes among bacteria associated with food-producing animals has been linked to the massive use of antimicrobials (a broader term for antibiotics) as growth promoters or prophylactic agents in the food production chain, and food contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be one of the major vehicles to spread AMR genes to bacteria in humans. The development and spread of AMR genes across the food chain can be monitored and investigated by whole genome sequencing (WGS), an emerging new tool that has great potential to revolutionize the way we manage food safety in a One Health context. Through WGS of bacterial isolates, both pathogen typing and antibiotic resistance information can be directly obtained from the sequence data, which provides us with multiple advantages over the traditional, slow multistep culture-based detection methods. In addition, the sequence data provides a common standardised language that can be deposited to online international public data repositories for global data sharing and global surveillance of AMR. Knowledge gain from studying the prevalence, distribution and type of bacteria and their resistance genes that are present in food-producing animals and food products will assist our academic, public health and private industry to develop solutions to make food safer for human consumption.