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Non-traditional Partnerships: How Phytophagous Hemipterans Influence Enteric Human Pathogen Populations

University of Wisconsin - Madison
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One in six Americans suffers from food-borne illness each year. Raw produce accounts for 46% of such illnesses, with leafy greens accounting for 23%. Most bacterial food-borne illness associated with produce is caused by Salmonella enterica. Phytophagous insects feed frequently and recurrently on plant tissues that could be contaminated with S. enterica, suggesting that they represent an ecological risk for human illness, as they repeatedly encounter and interact with enteric pathogens and plants. We have found that larger S. enterica populations survive in leaves of plants infested with select Hemipteran insects. The overall objective of this project is to characterize the mechanisms which govern the bacterial human pathogen - phytophagous insect interactions including the plant responses that influence pathogen populations on and in leaves. The specific objectives are as follows: 1. characterize insect factors that influence the survival and dispersal of human bacterial pathogens in and among plants and insects; 2. Characterize plant defense changes due to insect feeding and their impact on human bacterial pathogens causing illness through consumption of fresh produce; 3. characterize S. enterica (genetic) mechanisms used during Hemipteran transmission to plants.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Bacterial Pathogens