Expert scientists from nine African countries convened recently in Accra, Ghana to launch a new wave of diagnostic testing aimed at improving food safety and controlling antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The meeting, led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), included a training session on laboratory and bioinformatics methods for DNA sequencing. Each participant was provided with a sequencing device and laptop computer required to apply their learnings in their own future work.

The use of portable DNA sequencing allows for the rapid identification of disease-causing foodborne pathogens. Sequencing can also be used to trace source infections, which is a critical step in understanding and preventing disease transmission.

Additionally, the technology is far less expensive and thus more readily accessible than methods previously used for the same purpose. According to FAO, current limitations in diagnostic testing contribute to the 137,000 deaths caused by foodborne illness each year in Africa.

FAO, in collaboration with Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Technical Institute of Denmark, arranged the training with financial support from the UK Fleming Fund, the Government of Australia, and Mars Inc.