Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment Based on Whole Genome Sequencing Data: Case of Listeria monocytogenes

Patrick Murigu Kamau Njage, Pimlapas Leekitcharoenphon, Lisbeth Truelstrup Hansen, Rene S. Hendriksen, Christel Faes, Marc Aerts, Tine Hald*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The application of high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies (WGS) data remain an increasingly discussed but vastly unexplored resource in the public health domain of quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA). This is due to challenges including high dimensionality of WGS data and heterogeneity of microbial growth phenotype data. This study provides an innovative approach for modeling the impact of population heterogeneity in microbial phenotypic stress response and integrates this into predictive models inputting a high-dimensional WGS data for increased precision exposure assessment using an example of Listeria monocytogenes. Finite mixture models were used to distinguish the number of sub-populations for each of the stress phenotypes, acid, cold, salt and desiccation. Machine learning predictive models were selected from six algorithms by inputting WGS data to predict the sub-population membership of new strains with unknown stress response data. An example QMRA was conducted for cultured milk products using the strains of unknown stress phenotype to illustrate the significance of the findings of this study. Increased resistance to stress conditions leads to increased growth, the likelihood of higher exposure and probability of illness. Neglecting within-species genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity in microbial stress response may over or underestimate microbial exposure and eventual risk during QMRA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1772
Issue number11
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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