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USDA-sponsored initiatives tackle food safety concerns
Date:9/19/2011

Roughly 1 in six Americans (or 48 million people) are sickened every year by food-borne ailments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The effects of these illnesses range from acutely unpleasant to lethal, and the problem may be getting worse, as our food supply becomes more global, with an increasing number of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

Scientists at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University are working to better diagnose and prevent two of the most pervasive food-borne microbes, relying on a pair of new USDA grants aimed at aggressively combating food-related illness.

Assistant research professor Melha Mellata and ASU Regents' professor Charles Arntzen, both of the Biodesign Institute's Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, will pursue different disease culprits. Mellata's focus is on a harmful strain of the bacterial invader E. coli, while Arntzen's research targets the stomach flu.

Chicken or egg

Mellata's 5-year, $1.5 million USDA grant will investigate poultry products as a source of human extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), a microbe that escapes the intestine to infect other tissues of the body, or the bloodstream.

Mellata emphasizes that this pathogen is of increasing concern for humans. In the U.S., millions of people contract ExPEC infections every year, resulting in 40,000 deaths. Extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) can lead to an severe and sometimes fatal bloodstream infection known as sepsis. Elderly patients and those with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to ExPEC, which can also produce urinary tract infections and newborn meningitis.

According to Mellata, "in poultry products such as eggs and meat, ExPEC is often overlooked and perhaps even dismissed as a danger for food production. Recognizing and treating the food source of ExPEC would greatly enhance food safety and positively impact human
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Contact: Joe Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
480-727-0369
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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