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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory » Research » Research Project #430610

Research Project: Detection and Control of Foodborne Parasites for Food Safety

Location: Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32420-007-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: May 16, 2016
End Date: May 15, 2021

Objective:
Objective 1: Refine current immunological assays to investigate rates of human exposure to oocysts of Toxoplasma gondii. Subobjective 1.A (Hill): Refine and validate the TgERP ELISA (Toxoplasma gondii Embryogenesis Related Protein) and a Luminex bead-based immunoassay for use in human and veterinary models. Subobjective 1.B (Hill): Evaluate other candidate antigens to enhance the ability to detect exposure to oocysts in individuals with either low (recent infection) or high avidity (chronic infection) antibodies. Subobjective 1.C (Hill): Using sera collected from Americans via NHANES, determine what proportion of those infected with Toxoplasma harbor antibodies to oocysts. Objective 2: Identify mitigation strategies that reduce Toxoplasma oocysts contamination on fruits and leafy greens. Subobjective 2A (Hill): Evaluate the effectiveness of bioassay, tissue culture, and PCR using apoptosis-specific targets for determination of viability of Toxoplasma oocysts after treatment with cold plasma, monochromatic blue light, pulsed light, laser enhanced acoustic waves, gaseous chlorine dioxide, and ozone to inactivate T. gondii oocysts from the surface of fruits, vegetables, and low moisture foods (LMF). Objective 3: Elucidate the molecular epidemiology and molecular genetics of environmental Toxoplasma oocyst contamination and define virulence and persistence of particular genotypes in food animals. Subobjective 3.A (Dubey): Evaluate whether there are genetically distinct subsets of T. gondii in swine and deer. Subobjective 3.B (Dubey, Rosenthal): Evaluate whether the T. gondii oocysts that account for most infections are derived from local, distinct, and genetically homozygous populations. Objective 4: Determine and validate methods for improved inactivation and surveillance of meat-borne exposure to Toxoplasma gondii and Trichinella sprialis. Subobjective 4.A (Hill, Dubey): Develop a model for pork dry curing processes, taking into account five common measurements monitored during curing – salt/brine concentration, water activity (aw), pH, temperature, and time, for inactivation of Trichinella spiralis, Toxoplasma gondii, and Salmonella. The study will be performed in two phases – an initial multi-factorial modeling phase using ARS’s Pathogen Modeling Program and low, internal, and high endpoints for common curing treatments, and a final validation phase. Subobjective 4.B (Hill): Support the technical aspects of the new National Surveillance Program for Trichinella by 1) assisting in the development a sampling framework; 2) development of a high throughput serological assay for Trichinella and Toxoplasma capable of providing the means to document prevalence to less than 1 infection per million pigs; 3) by evaluating more selective diagnostic antigens to improve sensitivity and specificity; and 4) by assisting in the investigation of any positive findings (tracebacks, genotyping).

Approach:
Our project combines translational and applied research to improve monitoring and surveillance for zoonotic parasites, and develops models for their control. Fundamental research proposes to refine new immunological assays to detect human exposure to the oocyst stage of Toxoplasma, and to develop in vitro assays for Toxoplasma oocyst viability after curative treatment of fruits and vegetables. Applied research will develop methods to monitor and inactivate pathogens associated with pork products. Our overall goal is to mitigate the impact of these potentially harmful parasites, thereby protecting consumers and maintaining the vitality of the U.S. pork industry.