Landscape Genomics of Foodborne Pathogens


Dr. Peter Bergholz’s research group seeks to understand adaptive variation in microbial populations, with a specific focus on bacteria that cause foodborne disease. These foodborne pathogens are particularly interesting research subjects because they must adapt to very different environments inside and outside the host. The Bergholz group uses landscape genomics – GIS modeling, population genomics, and spatial analysis – to understand the landscape scale factors that generate adaptive variation in a species.

To learn more about this work, visit Dr. Bergholz's page or the Bergholz Lab website

Steam Pasteurization of Wheat


Dr. Teresa Bergholz is collaborating with Dr. Senay Simsek (NDSU Plant Sciences) to determine whether steam at low pressures can kill foodborne pathogens on wheat without affecting the function and quality of milled flour.

There have been several recent outbreaks of illness from flour made from wheat contaminated with foodborne pathogens. Using heat to pasteurize wheat is challenging because high temperatures can affect the functionality of milled flour. At atmospheric pressure, steam condenses at 100°C (think of a boiling kettle); however, as the pressure is lowered steam condenses at lower temperatures (a kettle boils quicker at high elevation because the pressure is lower, allowing the steam to condense at less than 100°C). Dr. Bergholz uses a vacuum pump to lower the pressure in a lab-scale treatment chamber, allowing steam to condense at precisely controlled temperatures less than 100°C. 

This work has shown that steam condensing at 65°C can significantly reduce E. coli O121 on hard red spring wheat without affecting the quality or functionality of milled flour in bread making. E. coli O121 is highly pathogenic and has caused outbreaks of disease in flour.

You can read more about Dr. Bergholz's research here

Novel Antimicrobials in Food Processing


The Pruess Lab has identified two novel antimicrobials, ß-phenylethylamine (PEA) and ethyl acetoacetic acid (EAA), that are effective against several bacterial pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, uropathogenic E. coliStaphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Yersinia enterocolitica, and Serratia marcescens. PEA and EAA are effective at reducing pathogens and spoilage bacteria on ground beef. They also can be used to wash or flush food processing equipment. A patent has been submitted.

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