Microbial models available over Internet

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A new Web site established by the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service will help facilitate research cooperation among scientists studying a key food safety issue-how pathogenic bacteria behave in food under varying environmental conditions.

The Center of Excellence in Microbial Modeling and Informatics was launched to form partnerships that advance the use of predictive microbiology, particularly models of microorganisms in food.

Mark Tamplin, PhD, a food microbiologist, is the coordinator of the Web site. One of its current projects is working with the Institute for Food Research in Norwich, England, on a database of predictive microbiology data sets of pathogenic bacteria and spoilage organisms. The collaboration will result in an online data warehouse called ComBase that will provide scientists with information to develop and validate models of microorganisms in food.

"The project we have is to jointly develop a relational database of predictive microbiology information so that food producers, risk assessors, and researchers in the field can quickly look through thousands of records and find data that are applicable to the behavior of pathogens," Dr. Tamplin said.

The CEMMI is intended to network researchers at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., and other laboratories and those in the food industry to solve current food safety and quality problems. The CEMMI is going beyond just predictions, making available the raw data behind the models as well.

"For instance, someone may be interested in the growth of E coli in a particular food, whether it be ground beef or corned beef," Dr. Tamplin said. "If those data sets are available, we're trying to bring them to the desk of the person who is interested in that information."

Interested collaborators are encouraged to contact Dr. Tamplin at the CEMMI with specific model needs at (215) 233-6400 ext. 3794, or visit www.arserrc.gov/cemmi.