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New insights into a leading poultry disease and its risks to human health
Date:1/27/2009

Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University associate research scientist Melha Mellata, a member of professor Roy Curtiss' team, is leading a USDA funded project to develop a vaccine against a leading poultry disease called avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC).

APEC is part of a large, diverse group of microbes called extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC). They cause a number of complex brain, lung and urinary tract diseases in human, animals, and birds. There is also considerable concern in the scientific community that APEC strains are becoming an emergent food pathogen. The poultry products are a suspected source of a suite of ExPEC infections, including those causing human disease.

The U.S. is the leading poultry industry in the world at an annual value of more than $50 billion, and E. coli infections are a big threat, causing millions in losses for the industry. According to the USDA, the two most common types of poultry infections are from the bacteria E. coli and Salmonella.

Antibiotics have long been the first line of defense to prevent APEC, but have lost their potency, as the bacteria have grown increasingly resistant to treatment. How these microbes cause disease is poorly understood. Mellata and colleagues in the institute's Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, led by Roy Curtiss, have been hard at work to understand the molecular tricks these bacteria use to evade a host's immune system.

Now, in a paper published in the journal PLoS One (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0004232), Mellata's team has analyzed the DNA sequence of a critical genetic element of APEC that contains several genes responsible for triggering its harmful effects. In addition, by comparing these genes to a collection of human ExPEC strains, they have shown that human and a
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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