Ithaca, NY—Cornell University Scientists have developed a computer program—Environmental Monitoring With an Agent-Based Model of Listeria (EnABLe)—to simulate the most likely locations in a processing facility where food-borne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes might be found, according to a press release.

Food safety managers may then test those areas for the bacteria’s presence, adding a tool to prevent food contamination, the press release says.

The CDC lists seven outbreaks and three deaths due to Listeria in 2017, and two outbreaks and one death in 2018. The FDA lists 4 recalls due to listeria in 2019, and 52 recalls due to listeria in 2018.

The press release notes that this computer model has the potential to be modified for a wide range of microbes and locations.

Renata Ivanek, associate professor in the Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, senior author of the paper, said in the release, “The goal is to build a decision-support tool for control of any pathogen in any complex environment. Whenever we have an environment that is complex, we always have to rely on expert opinion and general rules for this system, or this company, but what we’re trying to offer is a way to make this more quantitative and systematic by creating this digital reality.”

Ivanek and colleagues entered all relevant data into the model, including historical perspectives, expert feedback, details of the equipment used and its cleaning schedule, the jobs people do, and materials and people who enter from outside the facility, the press release says. While a single person—or even multiple people—could never keep track of all that information, Ivanek noted, people can input that information into the model, which can regularly predict outcomes based on changing information.

The release notes that food-borne Listeria monocytogenes infects around 1,600 people in the U.S. each year, with about one in five of those ending in death.