Summary of research program at the
Food Safety Laboratory: Dean O. Cliver, PhD, Professor of Food Safety, and
Maha N. Hajmeer, PhD, Lecturer and Researcher in Food Safety; with guidance
from Hans P. Riemann, Professor Emeritus
We study infectious
diseases that are transmitted via food and water. Some are zoonoses, and
others are human-specific. In some instances, we use animal agents as surrogates
for human pathogens. Our laboratory is the World Health Organization’s
Collaborating Center for Food Virology.
- Animal feeds
are sometimes ammoniated to enhance their nutritional value or to reduce
levels of mycotoxins. We are studying the ammoniation process from the standpoint
of what it may do to reduce on-farm levels of potentially foodborne bacteria,
- Sprouts made
from alfalfa and other seeds have been vehicles in outbreaks of foodborne
disease. We are studying ammoniation as a means to kill bacterial pathogens
(e.g., Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella) on the seeds before sprouting,
hopefully without interfering with sprouting efficiency.
- Some of the
most important foodborne viruses are detectable only by the reverse transcription-polymerase
chain reaction (RT-PCR), which cannot distinguish between infectious and
inactivated virus. We have devised a way to eliminate positive RT-PCR results
with inactivated virus. We are trying to expand this while adapting it to
detection of virus extracted from foods.
- We are in
the process of publishing results of work on the persistence of Listeria
monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., and Escherichia coli O157:H7 during production
and storage of chorizos, a Mexican-style sausage that is often produced
and sold in California without inspection. We are seeking funding to expand
this work and to include other ethnic products.
- We have bacteria
from bovine and swine manure that attack human viruses. With the help of
off-campus collaborators, we plan to determine whether these bacteria are
also effective against prions, foot-and-mouth disease virus, and other pathogens.
We are doing similar screening of thermophilic bacteria from composted turkey
manure and of fluids from anaerobic sewage sludge digestion, both mesophilic
and thermophilic. These results are intended to lead to composting carcasses
of food animals infected with exotic disease agents.
- We are beginning
a comparative study, with three other universities, of the incidence of
L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat meat products at retail.
- We are expecting
to receive support for collaborative work with the East Bay Municipal Utilities
District on pathogen destruction in modified sewage treatment procedures.
We are also supposed to be collaborators in an inter-university project
to prevent transmission of animal diseases by terrorists. Various other
studies are pending.
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