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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Molecular Characterization of Foodborne Pathogens Research » Research » Research Project #430258

Research Project: Molecular Characterization of Foodborne Pathogen Responses to Stress

Location: Molecular Characterization of Foodborne Pathogens Research

2016 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
1: Molecular characterization of Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) with specific emphasis elucidating the responses to food-related stresses, and genomic and proteomic studies to assess virulence and to identify genetic markers for detection and typing. 1A: Perform molecular characterization of acid tolerance in STEC. 1B: Perform molecular characterization of ExPEC. 1C: Develop molecular genoserotyping and pathotyping platforms for E. coli. ID: Characterization of STEC isolates from swine. 1E: Develop and evaluate immunologic-based methods for detection of STEC. 2: Genomic and proteomic analysis of Campylobacter with emphasis on virulence and the molecular characterization of the effects of acidification and other food-processing related stresses on survival Campylobacter in poultry products. 2A: Determine composition and effects that different poultry exudates play in the survival of the contaminating Campylobacter species. 2B: Investigate attachment and formation of biofilms by Campylobacter species on poultry skin in the presence of different poultry exudates. 2C: Investigate practical methods, chemical and microbiological based, for acidification of poultry exudate and their effects on the survival of contaminating Campylobacter spp. 3: Functional and molecular characterization of L. monocytogenes serotypes with emphasis on elucidating responses to food-related stresses through functional genomics; and determining virulence differences among L. monocytogenes strains and serotypes through comparative genomics. 3A: Determine strain variations in growth/survival with exposure to weak organic acids and olive leaf extracts among different L. monocytogenes serotypes. 3B: Determine genes that are essential for the survival and growth of L. monocytogenes under weak organic acid conditions in RTE meat. 3C: Investigate molecular responses of L. monocytogenes exposed to the olive leaf extracts using transcriptomics.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The goal of this project is to use omic technologies (proteomic, genomic, and transcriptomics methods) and bioinformatics in a systems approach to understand how pathogens become resistant to food-related stresses, to determine their pathogenicity, and to identify markers for detection and typing. Pathogens that will be investigated include: Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), Campylobacter species, and Listeria monocytogenes. We will use omic technologies to analyze a large variety of strains of each of the pathogens to identify genes and proteins necessary for pathogens to survive stresses encountered in food environments and cause human illness. Research on pathogenic E. coli will focus on examining the association between acid tolerance in STEC and virulence potential, curli expression, biofilm formation, and persistence. This work will provide information to understand the virulence characteristics of STEC and how food environment-related conditions may impact the virulence and persistence in the food environment. We will examine poultry and swine as reservoirs for food-borne infections linked to ExPEC and STEC, respectively, and characterize isolated strains to determine their virulence. The omic data will also reveal genetic markers for identification, molecular typing, and detection of these pathogens. In previous work, we found that the use of certain polyphosphates commonly used during poultry processing increased the survival of Campylobacter by causing subtle changes in pH. Building on our previous research, we will investigate strain diversity and mechanisms of tolerance to stresses, including acid and exposure to antimicrobial compounds, as well as investigate factors affecting attachment and biofilm formation of Campylobacter. In addition, there has been limited effort to identify the microbial makeup of poultry and the processing environment and how these may provide a survival advantage for Campylobacter. Thus, we will investigate environmental stresses that affect the survival and persistence of Campylobacter during poultry processing and the role that the microbial ecology of this environment plays in this process. Finally, we will examine stress responses in L. monocytogenes and explore novel approaches to control this pathogen and determine the genes and proteins that help the pathogen overcome stresses. Genes that are essential for the survival and growth of L. monocytogenes under weak organic acid conditions in RTE meat will be determined. We will also investigate the effect of olive leaf extracts on inactivation of L. monocytogenes, and using transcriptomics, we will determine the molecular responses of this pathogen when exposed to the olive leaf extracts. The research will expand the knowledge on the survival mechanisms of important food-borne pathogens, provide insight into the evolution of pathogens, as well as tools to detect, identify, and type food-borne pathogens, and will assist in the development of practical preservation systems that minimize health risks and assist regulators in making science-based food safety decisions.

3. Progress Report:
This new Project Plan was recently certified through ARS Office of Scientific Quality Review (OSQR). For further details on current work see the 2016 annual report for project 8072-42000-070-00D.

4. Accomplishments

5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations:

Review Publications
Baranzoni, G., Fratamico, P.M., Gangiredla, J., Patel, I., Bagi, L.K., Delannoy, S., Fach, P., Boccia, F., Anastasio, A., Pepe, T. 2016. Characterization of shiga toxin subtypes and virulence genes in Porcine shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli. Frontiers in Microbiology. 7:574.