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Genomic Elucidation of the Physiological State of Enteric Pathogens on Pre-harvest Lettuce

Investigators
Wiedmann, Martin
Institutions
Cornell University
Start date
2013
End date
2014
Objective
Contamination of produce with enteric pathogens can occur in the pre-harvest environment, and many produce associated outbreaks have been traced back to the pre-harvest environment. Once contamination of produce in the field occurs, the enteric foodborne pathogens EHEC and Salmonella are capable of surviving on the plant surface over long periods of time, yet little is known about the physiological state of the pathogen in this environment, and how pre-harvest environmental factors influence the physiological state of the pathogen. Transcriptional profiling techniques have tremendous potential for improving our ability to understand the physiological state of pathogens in the pre-harvest environment.

Here we propose to directly assess the physiological state of EHEC and Salmonella associated with lettuce leaves under pre-harvest conditions by quantifying genome-wide changes in gene expression. This comprehensive transcriptional assessment of the physiological state of pathogens associated with lettuce will indicate how the pathogens are responding to this non-host environment. Changes in gene expression under different lettuce cultivation conditions will be used to predict which stress responses are activated by the pathogens. As exposure to environmental stress has the potential to influence how these pathogens survive subsequent stresses, the proposed research directly assesses how the physiological state of the pathogens on lettuce plants impacts the ability of the pathogens to survive post-processing decontamination procedures, such as a chlorine wash, as well as the ability of the pathogen to survive gastric acidity, through phenotypic survival assays. The physiological state of enteric pathogens on pre-harvest produce can also significantly impact the ability to detect these pathogens in this environment. Therefore, it is critical to understand the physiological state of enteric pathogens on pre-harvest produce for development and assessment of appropriate detection methods.

The goal of this proposed research is to determine how pre-harvest conditions impact the ability of EHEC and Salmonella to survive in the food chain, providing insights for developing effective post-harvest treatments to reduce consumer exposure to these pathogens on produce. The researchers will determine how pre-harvest conditions impact the ability of EHEC and Salmonella to survive in the food chain. This data will be used to develop effective post-harvest treatments to reduce consumer exposure to these pathogens on produce.

Funding Source
Center for Produce Safety
Project source
View this project
Project number
2013-276
Categories
Bacterial Pathogens
Salmonella