Faculty members receive federal funding for food safety projects

Dr. Kariyawasam

Dr. Subashinie Kariyawasam

Two faculty members from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine recently received grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture aimed at improving food safety.

Dr. Subhashinie Kariyawasam, a professor of microbiology and chair of the college’s department of comparative, diagnostic and population medicine, has received a three-year grant for $464,360 to pursue development of a vaccine to provide protection against multiple salmonella serovars and a high throughput rapid diagnostic tool for the detection of salmonella in shell eggs.

Nontyphoidal salmonella is the leading bacterial foodborne pathogen in the U.S., with many outbreaks tracing back to shell eggs, poultry meat, and other poultry products,” she said. “As a result, implementation of effective strategies for reducing salmonella contamination of poultry and their products has become a critical public health and economic objective.”

Despite the regulatory programs and vaccination practices in place for decades against salmonella, foodborne outbreaks due to salmonella continue to increase, indicating that more effective vaccines and diagnostic tests are urgently needed, Kariyawasam added.

“Also, antibiotic-resistant salmonella are frequently implicated in these outbreaks, necessitating the exploration of novel non-antibiotic interventions to counteract the pathogen in reservoirs, including poultry. In this context, the overall goal of this proposal is to provide new avenues for reducing the incidence of foodborne salmonella through developing both a novel vaccine effective against multiple Salmonella serovars and a rapid diagnostic tool for the detection of salmonella in shell eggs.”

Dr. Roy Curtiss

Roy Curtiss

Dr. Roy Curtiss, a professor in the college’s department of infectious diseases and immunology with expertise in genomics, microbiology, biomedical sciences and vaccinology, has received a three-year grant for $474,991 to further his research into self-destructing attenuated adjuvant salmonella strains, or SDAAS. He and his team have developed strains that show the ability to effectively induce innate immunity effects to augment the ability of subunit and live vaccines to induce protective immunity against challenges with pathogens.

“We recently determined that administration of some of these SDAAS in ovo to 18-day old chick embryos permitted normal levels of hatchability,” Curtiss said. “We therefore propose to optimize SDAAS strains to stimulate production of a sustained innate immunity and be safely used for in-ovo inoculation of embryonated eggs without reduction in hatchability or in weight gain and feed conversion efficiency of the hatched chicks.”

His group will then proceed to determine whether the administration of these SDAAS strains can reduce infection and colonization of day-of-hatch chicks by Salmonella and other common bacterial pathogens.

“Success in these endeavors will ensure the better health of chickens to enable better growth performance, enhance the safety of poultry for human consumption and reduce the use of antimicrobial drugs during poultry rearing and thus reduce the selective pressure for expansion in drug-resistant bacterial pathogens,” Curtiss said.

He added that studies funded by this grant are being pursued by Vinicius Lima, a Ph.D. graduate student and Brazilian trained veterinarian student, who helped write the proposal.

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