Research Area

Campylobacter jejuni is a leading cause of bacterial-derived gastroenteritis in the United States, causing a projected 1.3 million cases annually.  This prevalence is primarily due to the ability of the bacterium to reside, asymptomatically, within the gastrointestinal tracts of poultry.  During processing, C. jejuni is released from the avian gut, contaminating meat products as a result.  From here, humans consume the bacterium by eating undercooked meat or via cross-contamination in the kitchen, which leads to a self-limiting infection that is characterized by mild-to-severe diarrhea that may be accompanied by abdominal cramps and fever.  Concern over these infections is underscored by increasing resistance of C. jejuni to the important clinical antibiotics, azithromycin and ciprofloxacin. As such, the CDC recently designated drug-resistant Campylobacter a serious threat to public health.

Our laboratory uses a combination of bacterial genetics and molecular biology to identify and characterize determinants that are important for either pre-harvest colonization of poultry or for post-harvest survival during processing and storage of meat.  The aim of this work is to gain insights into the factors required for transmission of C. jejuni through the food supply, so that we can develop either infection control strategies or compounds that can reduce contamination of food.  Additionally, our laboratory uses animal models of disease to investigate the outcomes of C. jejuni infection in a mammalian host.  In particular, we are interested in the consequences of persistent C. jejuni colonization on gut health in humans.