According to the Food and Drug Administration, most people show no symptoms when infected with Listeria monocytogenes. In fact, the FDA’s website says as many as 1-10 percent of humans may be intestinal carriers of this bacteria, but when symptoms do show up, the infection, called listeriosis, can be deadly.
Listeriosis can lead to meningitis with a mortality rate of up to 70 percent, septicemia with a mortality rate of up to 50 percent, and perinatal or neonatal infections with mortality rates greater than 80 percent, the site says. Listeria is often food-borne and unusually hardy; the site says it can grow at temperatures as low as 3 degrees Celsius.
Dong-Ryeoul Bae, a recent doctoral graduate of Mississippi State University, recently received an Outstanding Student Poster award from the American Society for Microbiology for research that could help reduce Listeria infections.
Bae received the award at ASM’s June meeting in San Francisco, which brought together more than 8,000 people from 72 countries. Bae’s abstract was one of only 40 selected for ASM’s top honors.
Chinling Wang, an associate professor in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Basic Science, has been working with Bae on foodborne pathogen research. Specifically, she said, the two of them have sought funding to research the mechanisms that let these pathogens attach onto fresh food crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station provided the grants which funded Bae’s award-winning research.
“Listeria monocytogenes is one of the most important food-borne bacteria, and many research groups are working on this bacterium,” Wang said. “Listeria has (the) unique ability to attach to various ready-to-eat food surfaces, processing equipments and environments. It makes (it) difficult to prevent the cross-contamination in food processing environments.”
Bae said in a press release his research identifies a gene that plays an important role in Listeria’s ability to attach to food. He has named this gene the Listeria Cellulose-binding Protein, he said.
“The results of this study will be useful in understanding how Listeria attaches to fruits and vegetables and grows on the surfaces of ready-to-eat foods,” Bae said. “The results will also contribute to the development of strategies in vegetable and fruit decontamination, preservation and storage.”
The American Society for Microbiology is the world’s largest and oldest single life science membership organization. As such, Wang said Bae’s achievement brings international recognition to his work ad to MSU.
“To receive the outstanding student poster award, you have to compete with international and national graduate students,” Wang said. “Our research at MSU is as competitive as other land-grant universities, and this award is well recognized by the national and international scientific community.”
Originally from South Korea, Bae holds a bachelor’s degree from Gyeongsang National University and a master’s degree from North Dakota State University. He transferred to Wang’s department from The Ohio State University in 2008, and he plans to continue working with Wang on postdoctoral Listeria research.
“I have ... closely worked with Dr. Bae for 4 years as his major professor,” Wang said. “Dr. Bae is highly motivated, never afraid of hard work and does not give up easily. His commitment to research allows him to overcome many obstacles to become a promising research scientist.”