GHANA — In a significant stride toward advancing both human and animal health, four experts from Ghana’s National Food Safety Laboratory (NFSL) have completed intensive training in Salmonella serotyping in the United Kingdom.

This transformative endeavor, facilitated by the Animal Health System Strengthening project, underscores the interconnection of human and animal well-being, aligning with the One Health Agenda.

The distinguished team from NFSL included Dr. Benjamin Kissi Sasu, Deputy Head of the Laboratory, Hawaha Korkor Ashong, the laboratory’s Quality Manager, Emmanuel Gameli Adzaworlu, a Technical Supervisor, and Lovelace Darko, a Veterinary Laboratory Technician.

Their training in Salmonella serotyping was hosted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in the UK.

Salmonella is a group of common bacteria notorious for causing food poisoning in humans. Transmission often occurs due to inadequate cooking and cross-contamination.

These bacteria lurk in various food sources, including raw meat, undercooked poultry, eggs, and unpasteurized milk. Surprisingly, they can also be found in fruits, vegetables, and processed foods.

Salmonella’s impact on public health is substantial, with approximately 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths occurring annually in the United States alone, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This alarming prevalence is attributed to the existence of numerous Salmonella serotypes, each with its unique characteristics.

Unveiling the serotypes

Serotyping, as elucidated by the CDC, is a process that categorizes microorganisms within a species based on distinctive surface structures.

Salmonella bacteria may appear uniform under a microscope, but closer examination reveals unique patterns determined by two crucial surface structures: the O antigen and the H antigen.

The O antigen constitutes the outermost layer of the bacterial surface, distinguished by varying chemical compositions.

The H antigen, on the other hand, is a threadlike structure forming part of the flagella and differs in protein content. Together, these structures enable scientists to determine the specific Salmonella serotype.

Serotyping for a Safer World

While numerous Salmonella serotypes exist, most outbreaks in humans are linked to common variants.

By studying these prevalent serotypes, scientists gain insights into both the natural history of all Salmonella strains and the associated illnesses.

Serotyping empowers scientists to identify the type of Salmonella in food products or infected individuals, aiding in outbreak tracing and risk reduction. Furthermore, it assists in selecting appropriate drugs for treating severely ill patients.

A milestone for NFSL and Ghana

NFSL stands as the sole ISO-accredited Veterinary (Animal Health) Laboratory in Ghana, signifying its adherence to international standards.

The training provided by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), recognized as a center of excellence by the World Organisation for Animal Health, is a welcomed opportunity for NFSL personnel.

The Animal Health Systems Strengthening project is actively working to equip NFSL with essential tools, ensuring that the acquired knowledge and skills can be effectively utilized in Accra.

The ultimate goal is to transfer this expertise to the three main NFSL Sentinel sites located in Takoradi, Pong Tamale, and Kumasi.

During their visit to the UK, the NFSL team engaged in discussions with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, addressing critical issues such as the monitoring of veterinary drug residues and antimicrobial resistance in food products.

These dialogues underscore the crucial role of NFSL in safeguarding the health of both humans and animals in Ghana.

As Ghana strengthens its capacity in Salmonella serotyping, it takes a significant step towards embracing the One Health approach, recognizing the intricate interplay between human and animal health, and working to protect the well-being of all.

For all the latest food safety news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel.