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Enteric Diseases Program

The Enteric Diseases Program provides comprehensive national reference laboratory services and research programs that contribute to our leadership of real-time surveillance and outbreak response systems for food and waterborne illnesses. These include the National Enteric Surveillance Program and PulseNet Canada.

Identification and Serotyping

Identification of the bacterial genus and species is the first step in any bacteriological investigation, and the Identification and Serotyping unit has the experience and expertise to perform biochemical identification services on critical food and waterborne pathogens such as:

Notably, the Identification and Serotyping unit is one of only a very few laboratories in the world with the experience, expertise, and reference bacteria collections to prepare and perform rigorous quality control testing on rabbit antiserum for the serotyping of Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes.

PulseNet Canada

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The Enteric section also provides a toxin testing reference service, and using molecular approaches such as PCR or using phenotypic approaches such as tissue culture cytotoxicity assays and neutralization assays, we can identify toxigenic E. coli, Shigella, Vibrio, Klebsiella and other bacterial species.


The Phage Typing unit (Head: Rafiq Ahmed) of the Enteric Disease Program engages in laboratory testing, phage production, applied research and surveillance activities for enteric pathogens including:

  • E. coli O157 (Shiga toxin-producing)
  • Salmonella enterica serovars Enteritidis, Typhimurium, Heidelberg, Infantis, Newport, Paratyphi B, Oranienburg, Hadar, Panama, Thompson and Typhi
  • Shigella boydii and Shigella sonnei

Phage typing has proved to be an economical, robust and informative method for the identification and response to clusters and outbreaks of enteric illness, and is supported by over six decades worth of historical data. Phage typing data are often used in conjunction with Serotyping and PFGE-based fingerprinting to support surveillance and outbreak response programs. The majority of typing schemes were developed and standardized in Canada and the remaining schemes were obtained from Public Health Agency, UK.

PulseNet Canada

PulseNet Canada (Head: Dr. Celine Nadon) represents an active partnership between PHAC, CFIA External Link, Health Canada External Link and the provincial public health laboratories (as represented by the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network) with the goals of real-time detection and response to foodborne outbreaks.

Please visit the PulseNet Canada website for more information.


Enterics Research Unit

The latest generation of genomics and proteomics technologies are revolutionizing public health investigations of human illness caused by bacterial pathogens. The Enteric Diseases Program are conducting applied research programs on high-throughput (HTP) genomics and proteomics methods to enhance the diagnosis, surveillance and control of disease through a vastly improved molecular epidemiologic investigation of clinical, food and environmental bacterial isolates. The intent of these projects is to formalize and transfer both technology and informatics tools into our public health workflows so that whole genome-based comparative pathogenomic analyses can be implemented for robust and higher throughput subtyping, trace-back and monitoring of foodborne and waterborne pathogens.

Our pathogenomics programs also include discovery research that utilize high-throughput genomic and metagenomic data in combination with proteomics and functional studies to investigate pathogen diversity, virulence factors, pathogen-host interactions, and other pathogen-related factors leading to infectious disease. These studies allow us to perform fundamental research into the environmental persistence and virulence mechanisms of bacterial enteric pathogens.

Examples of this work include:

Contact Us

Enteric Diseases Program
National Microbiology Laboratory
Public Health Agency of Canada
Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health
1015 Arlington Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3E 3R2

Telephone: (204) 789-6009
Fax: (204) 789-5012