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Molecular Genetics, Genomics, and Phylogenetics of Foodborne Zoonotic Parasites Affecting Food Safety and Public Health

  1. Determine what genetic and genomic features distinguish Trichinella spiralis from Trichinella murrelli.
  2. Utilize genomics to determine if microsatellite loci can be used to trace zoonotic outbreaks of Trichinella spiralis.
  3. Determine the genetic features that account for the epidemic spread of certain strains of Toxoplasma gondii.
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Investigations will be conducted to clarify how infections in wildlife influence the safety of pastured pork. Accordingly, first identify heritable differences between two related species of Trichinella, only one of which (T. spiralis) severely compromises pork safety by evading swine immunity. The other, Trichinella murrelli, predominates in North American wildlife but fails to thrive in swine. By comparing the genomes of these two parasites, the intent is to establish a basis for exploring what makes pigs so especially vulnerable to T. spiralis.

Secondly, develop the means to trace chains of transmission of Trichinella spp. Using markers which have already established the long-term dispersal history of T. spiralis (to the Americas in the pigs and rats brought by European colonists), researchers will attempt to discriminate instances of persistent on-farm transmission from sporadic introductions of T. spiralis to swine herds.

Finally, the genetics of T. gondii reproduction will be characterized. Both sexual and asexual reproduction can occur in T. gondii, and available data provide conflicting evidence as to the relative importance of each reproductive mode. These incongruous data leave in doubt whether this parasite evolves as an assemblage of distinct lineages, or whether it more closely resembles a coherent, interbreeding species. Additional data are needed to better resolve how T. gondii propagates and evolves. These results will help determine whether particular strains pose elevated food safety risk will help anticipate this parasite's evolutionary response to preventative interventions.

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Rosenthal, Benjamin
Project Reports:
Published Journal Articles USDA ARS (NP 108):
Traditional goat husbandry may substantially contribute to human toxoplasmosis exposure
Pastiu A, Ajzenberg D, Györke A, Suteu O, Balea A, Kalmar Z, Rosenthal BM, Domsa C, Cozma V.
J Parasitol. 2014 Jul 8. [Epub ahead of print]
Hybridization between previously isolated ancestors may explain the persistence of exactly two ancient lineages in the genome of the oyster parasite Perkinsus marinus
Thompson PC, Rosenthal BM, Hare MP.
Infect Genet Evol. 2014 Jun;24:167-76.
Evolutionary responses of innate immunity to adaptive immunity
Ward AE, Rosenthal BM.
Infect Genet Evol. 2014 Jan;21:492-6.
Microsatellite genotypes reveal some long-distance gene flow in Perkinsus marinus, a major pathogen of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin)
Thompson PC, Rosenthal BM, Hare MP.
J Shellfish Res. 2014;33(1):195-206.
In Romania, exposure to Toxoplasma gondii occurs twice as often in swine raised for familial consumption as in hunted wild boar, but occurs rarely if ever among fattening pigs raised in confinement
Paştiu AI, Györke A, Blaga R, Mircean V, Rosenthal BM, Cozma V.
Parasitol Res. 2013 Jun;112(6):2403-7.
Unique antigenic gene expression at different developmental stages of Trichinella pseudospiralis
Wu XP, Liu XL, Wang XL, Blaga R, Fu BQ, Liu P, Bai X, Wang ZJ, Rosenthal BM, Shi HN, Sandrine L, Vallee I, Boireau P, Wang F, Zhou XN, Zhao Y, Liu MY.
Vet Parasitol. 2013 May 20;194(2):198-201.
Screening of early antigen genes of adult-stage Trichinella spiralis using pig serum from different stages of early infection
Liu P, Wu XP, Bai X, Wang XL, Yu L, Rosenthal B, Blaga R, Lacour S, Vallee I, Boireau P, Gherman C, Oltean M, Zhou XN, Wang F, Zhao Y, Liu MY.
Vet Parasitol. 2013 May 20;194(2):222-5.
Modulation of inflammatory bowel disease in a mouse model following infection with Trichinella spiralis
Zhao Y, Liu MY, Wang XL, Liu XL, Yang Y, Zou HB, Sun SM, Yu L, Rosenthal B, Shi HN, Boireau P, Wu XP.
Vet Parasitol. 2013 May 20;194(2):211-6.
An anti-tumor protein produced by Trichinella spiralis and identified by screening a T7 phage display library, induces apoptosis in human hepatoma H7402 cells
Wang XL, Liu MY, Sun SM, Liu XL, Yu L, Wang XR, Chu LX, Rosenthal B, Shi HN, Boireau P, Wang F, Zhao Y, Wu XP.
Vet Parasitol. 2013 May 20;194(2):186-8.
Genome sequencing identifies two nearly unchanged strains of persistent Listeria monocytogenes isolated at two different fish processing plants sampled 6 years apart
Holch A, Webb K, Lukjancenko O, Ussery D, Rosenthal BM, Gram L.
Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 May;79(9):2944-51.
A monomorphic haplotype of chromosome Ia is associated with widespread success in clonal and nonclonal populations of Toxoplasma gondii
Khan A, Miller N, Roos DS, Dubey JP, Ajzenberg D, Dardé ML, Ajioka JW, Rosenthal B, Sibley LD.
MBio. 2011 Nov 8;2(6):e00228-11.
Non-Journal Publications:
Comparative genetics: a lens through which to clarify the genomes, the transmission history, and the reproductive biology of Trichinella spp. - (Abstract Only)
Rosenthal, B.M., Thompson, P.C., Liu, M. 2014. Comparative genetics: a lens through which to clarify the genomes, the transmission history, and the reproductive biology of Trichinella spp.. Meeting Abstract. 24:167-176.
Population genetics, diversity and spread of virulence in Toxoplasma gondii - (Book / Chapter)
Rosenthal, B.M., Ajioka, J.W. 2012. Population genetics, diversity and spread of virulence in Toxoplasma gondii. In: David, L.S., Howlett, B.J., Heitman, J., editors. Evolution of Virulence in Eukaryotic Microbes. Boston, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 231-245.
Sarcocystosis - (Book / Chapter)
Accepted Publication (10-Sep-11)
Food Safety Categories:
On-Farm Food Safety
Pathogen Biology
Farm-to-Table Categories:
On-farm food production