The CARE project (Cross-sectoral framework for quality Assurance Resources for countries in the European Union) arose from the observation that at European level, the various collections of micro-organisms that can be transmitted from animals to humans are still compartmentalised by sector of origin and type of micro-organism. This mainly concerns foodborne micro-organisms such as Salmonella and Staphylococcus. Collections of reference strains are in fact available from the various national and European networks of laboratories responsible for identifying and characterising micro-organisms that are pathogenic to animals and humans. These collections are used to harmonise and improve analysis and diagnosis methods, and verify the analytical capabilities of these laboratories. However, until now, within the European Union, there has been no scheme for combining these different collections and capitalising on them beyond their respective networks.
Offering access to more strains
The CARE project, funded by the One Health EJP, was coordinated by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). It brought together 15 partners, including ANSES. The aim of this two-and-a-half-year project, which began in 2020, was to pool microbial collections at European level and enhance their management.
"This doesn't involve bringing all the micro-organisms together in one place," explains Sophie Roussel, a scientist in the Salmonella and Listeria Unit of ANSES's Laboratory for Food Safety in Maisons-Alfort, who took part in the project. "The micro-organisms will still be stored in their place of origin, but referencing them according to common rules will facilitate their wider use within the scientific community." Pooling these collections will therefore improve the laboratories' analytical capabilities, by giving them access to a more diversified range of reference strains.
A catalogue of micro-organisms made available on a European scale
An online catalogue is currently being drawn up. For each strain made available to the scientific community, the catalogue will provide epidemiological data – such as the place and year when it was collected, or its source – along with physiological and genomic data. A vast pooled collection of over 2500 reference strains of foodborne pathogens will eventually be available to scientists and laboratories.
ANSES's participation in this project is in line with the Agency's strategy to promote its biological assets, which are made up of a huge number of micro-organism strains. "For example, we are already adding certain strains of foodborne pathogenic bacteria that we have already studied in the collections of French or European biological resource centres (BRCs). These BRCs are tasked with acquiring, authenticating, storing and distributing strains in compliance with the applicable standards for pathogenic bacteria. They facilitate their transfer to the scientific community and give our strains greater visibility," explains Sophie Roussel.