Recent events both here and abroad have focused attention on the need for ensuring a safe and secure food supply. Although much has been written about the potential of particular select agents in bioterrorism, we must consider seriously the more mundane pathogens, especially those that have been implicated previously in foodborne outbreaks of human disease, as possible agents of bioterrorism. Given their evolutionary history, the enteric pathogens are more diverse than agents such as Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis, or Yersinia pestis. This greater diversity, however, is a double-edged sword; although diversity affords the opportunity for unequivocal identification of an organism without the need for whole-genome sequencing, the same diversity can confound definitive forensic identification if boundaries are not well defined. Here, we discuss molecular approaches used for the identification of Salmonella enterica, Escherichia coli, and Shigella spp. and viral pathogens and discuss the utility of these approaches to the field of microbial molecular forensics.

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