Location: Produce Safety and Microbiology Research
Project Number: 2030-42000-052-011-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement
Start Date: Mar 1, 2022
End Date: Feb 29, 2024
The goal of this workforce development grant proposal is the preparation of a postdoctoral scholar into an independent scientist. This proposal therefore has 2 objectives. The first is the professional development of the scientist and the second is the conducting of food safety research in line with NIFA’s food safety, nutrition, and health program area priority. The objective of the proposed research is to identify lettuce cultivars that are inhibitory to colonization by E. coli O157:H7 upon minimal processing and cold storage. The ultimate goal of this project is to identify lettuce traits to include in plant breeding programs in order to enhance food safety.
The professional development objective of this proposal will be achieved through activities to include developing mentor and mentee relationships, classes and webinars aimed at developing the ability of the scientist to secure funding and publish papers, and attendance at events that will expand his professional network. The research objective will be achieved through the study of the interactions between lettuce cultivars and pathogenic E. coli O157:H7(EcO157). The contamination of lettuce with EcO157 has been responsible for numerous occurrences of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, highlighting the need for further study of this hazardous pair. To address this concern, we will first identify lettuce cultivars that effectively reduce population sizes of EcO157 upon shredding and cold storage, then characterize defense responses in selected lettuce cultivars showing reduced EcO157 survival on cut tissue. Additionally, the microbiome of these cultivars will be characterized to determine the role of other microbiota interacting with the plant tissue and with EcO157 in the survival of the human pathogen in cut lettuce.