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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Biological Control of Human Pathogens on Fresh Produce
The interaction of pathogens with their vertebrate hosts has been studied intensively, but knowledge of their ecology in the plant environment is greatly lacking. Our studies investigate the bacterial genes involved in the attachment, growth, and survival of Salmonella enterica, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogeneson various crops that have been implicated in outbreaks, using gene expression technology. Plant factors involved in the biology of these pathogens on plants will also be identified using Arabidopsis thalianamutant libraries. The role of interactions with the plant natural microflora, such as plant-associated bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes, in the growth and survival of human pathogens is being studied. This includes their interactions within biofilms and their role in the failure of most sanitizers to decontaminate produce, and methods to remediate it. The lack of safe sanitizers for produce prompted our search for phytochemicals that are active against human pathogens and the study of their additive and synergistic mechanisms. Finally, methods will be developed to detect Norwalk-like viruses from produce and assess the potential for produce to act as a causal vehicle for nonbacterial gastroenteritis, which accounts for 67% of food-borne illnesses in the U.S. The results of our research will provide valuable information to develop needed strategies for the prevention and control of produce contamination.
We have developed several microbe-plant model systems to investigate the interaction of human pathogens with plants and plant microflora:
Model Systems and Objectives Researcher(s)
S. entericaThompson on cilantro Maria Brandl, Ph.D
S. entericaNewport and E. coliO157:H7 on alfalfa sprouts
E. coliO157:H7 on lettuce
S. entericaThompson and E. coliO157:H7 on A. thaliana Michael Cooley, Ph.D.
L. monocytogenesand radish, cabbage on alfalfa roots Lisa Gorski, Ph.D

Detect Norwalk-like viruses from produce

Peng Tian, Ph.D

Last Modified: 3/12/2013
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