I study the ecology and physiology of human pathogens, specifically Vibrio vulnificus and V. parahaemolyticus. These bacteria typically gain access to the human host when eating raw shellfish, especially oysters. A better understanding of the ecological and physiological interactions between Vibrio and shellfish can ultimately lead to fewer infections.
■ We are examining the variations of toxins produced by Vibrio vulnificus bacteria, secreted by the Type VI secretion system, and the role in bacterial competition for surface space. When the bacteria are on a surface and make contact, they inject each other with a toxin, causing cell death. Different strains produce different toxins, and we have currently uncovered 16 different types. Some strains produce an antitoxin for the toxins that other strains possess. We are creating a susceptibility matrix to better understand these microbial interactions in vivo.
■ We are developing a probiotic treatment for oysters grown in aquaculture. Combining research in techniques to remove competing bacteria, increase bacterial uptake efficiency in oysters, we will treat oysters with a probiotic bacterium to reduce human infections.
Discovery Hall | 10910 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA 20109