Implementation of Nationwide Real-time Whole-genome Sequencing to Enhance Listeriosis Outbreak Detection and Investigation

Brendan R. Jackson, Cheryl Tarr, Errol Strain, Kelly A. Jackson, Amanda Conrad, Heather Carleton, Lee S. Katz, Steven Stroika, L. Hannah Gould, Rajal K. Mody, Benjamin J. Silk, Jennifer Beal, Yi Chen, Ruth Timme, Matthew Doyle, Angela Fields, Matthew Wise, Glenn Tillman, Stephanie Defibaugh-Chavez, Zuzana KucerovaAshley Sabol, Katie Roache, Eija Trees, Mustafa Simmons, Jamie Wasilenko, Kristy Kubota, Hannes Pouseele, William Klimke, John Besser, Eric Brown, Marc Allard, Peter Gerner-Smidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

260 Scopus citations


Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) causes severe foodborne illness (listeriosis). Previous molecular subtyping methods, such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), were critical in detecting outbreaks that led to food safety improvements and declining incidence, but PFGE provides limited genetic resolution. A multiagency collaboration began performing real-time, whole-genome sequencing (WGS) on all US Lm isolates from patients, food, and the environment in September 2013, posting sequencing data into a public repository. Compared with the year before the project began, WGS, combined with epidemiologic and product trace-back data, detected more listeriosis clusters and solved more outbreaks (2 outbreaks in pre-WGS year, 5 in WGS year 1, and 9 in year 2). Whole-genome multilocus sequence typing and single nucleotide polymorphism analyses provided equivalent phylogenetic relationships relevant to investigations; results were most useful when interpreted in context of epidemiological data. WGS has transformed listeriosis outbreak surveillance and is being implemented for other foodborne pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-386
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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