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Turner, Jeffrey W; Provenzano, Daniele
Texas A&M University
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Over the past two decades, the number of Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections worldwide has increaseddramatically. In the United States (U.S.), V. parahaemolyticus has emerged as the leading cause of seafood-borne gastroenteritis. A majority of these illnesses have been attributed to the appearance and expansion of apandemic serotype (O3:K6). However, in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) region of the U.S., this highly virulentserotype is very rarely associated with outbreaks (with only three reported cases), despite its alarmingabundance in the environment. Although no explanation for this curious etiology has materialized we havepreviously shown that environmental O3:K6 from this region exhibited decreased virulence in zebrafish.Subsequent genome sequencing has revealed that environmental O3:K6 from the PNW carry a novelprophage (Vibrio prophage NW1) that has displaced seven genes: VP1884-VP1890. To better understandpandemic V. parahaemolyticus dynamics we propose to investigate the genetic mechanisms that underlie theunique etiology of this pathogen in the PNW. Our central hypothesis is that prophage NW1 depressesvirulence through the displacement of 7 genes including the cold-shock transcriptional regulator cspA(VP1889), the virulence-associated vacB (VP1890), and the hypothetical protein VP1888. The recent dramaticincrease in the number of V. parahaemolyticus infections, the continued expansion of the range and seasonalwindow of infections (owing to climate warming), and the increasing reliance of the global population onseafood as a major source of animal protein all provide strong rationale for this study. The long-term goal ofour research is to understand how prophage NW1 affects the virulence of pandemic V. parahaemolyticusO3:K6. To accomplish this goal, the investigators will address three specific aims using a combination oftraditional and cutting-edge approaches: 1) screen a large collection of environmental isolates, including O3:K6isolates, to determine the prevalence of prophage NW1, 2) quantify the virulence of O3:K6 isolates carryingprophage NW1 by intraperitoneal challenge in zebrafish and 3) investigate the mechanisms underpinningvirulence by quantifying virulence in wild-type and prophage mutants. Results are expected to answer openquestions about virulence and evolution in a pandemic bacterial pathogen that poses a significant threat tohuman health and food security. This study aligns closely with the NIAID mandate to respond to emergingpublic health threats as well as the NIAID mission to better understand, treat and ultimately prevent infectiousdiseases. Further, this study aligns closely with the goals of the AREA program in that it will strengthen theresearch environment at a minority-serving institution and expose underrepresented students to meritoriousresearch.
Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
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Project number
Food Defense and Integrity
Bacterial Pathogens