Zoonoses is defined by the World Health Organization as “diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans.” Our department is studying the antigenic and genetic relationships of animal viruses, such as influenza viruses, rotaviruses, coronaviruses and caliciviruses, to their human counterparts to assess their zoonotic potential and to delineate mechanisms of interspecies transmission. We also develop specific assays for their detection and differentiation in animals and foods. Additionally, we are working to understand the pathogenesis and survival mechanisms of zoonotic foodborne bacteria, such as Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Listeria, Salmonella, and Campylobacter.
Major interests in food safety include pre-harvest control of bacterial and viral zoonoses, specifically, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and noroviruses and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) mitigation. Research is focused on defining the epidemiology and ecology of these pathogens in food animals, water and environment; understanding the epidemiology and emergence of AMR in food animal production; understanding molecular mechanisms of how these zoonotic pathogens interact with food animals as well as fresh produce; and developing novel diagnostics vaccines, therapeutics, and antibiotic alternative approaches for preharvest control of these zoonotic pathogens and mitigation of AMR. Our projects integrate epidemiological principles with traditional microbiology and molecular and geospatial techniques to understand pathogen and AMR dispersion and in food animals, wildlife populations, vegetables and fruits, and in environmental reservoirs including water and use state of theart omics based approaches to define host-environment-pathogen interactions and controlstrategies. Methods to enhance outreach and education to stakeholders through improved risk communication are also emphasized.