The Gilmour group is interested in understanding the microbial traits of Listeria that contribute to its significant risk as a foodborne contaminant and then invasive human pathogen.
From what we learn on the adaption of Listeria using genomic technologies, we are also interested using metagenomic platforms to better detect other invasive pathogens in both food safety and health settings.
As an environmental microbe, Listeria may be present directly within raw foods or food ingredients and then survive food safety control efforts. Additionally, Listeria clones may progress to become established within food production or food service environments, also leading to contamination of foods. In any exposure scenario, Listeria’s evasion of control treatments and its persistence can be dictated by an array of adaptive processes such as the acquisition of antimicrobial resistance (i.e. to sanitizers) and the formation of microbial communities (i.e. biofilms).
There is an opportunity to understand and then control the risk of Listeria by studying these niche adaptations that lead to our exposure and illness. To do this, we study the genetic variation and gene dynamics of Listeria isolated from foods and food production environments, with comparison to those clones that have resulted in human illness and outbreaks of disease. We study the traits that are essential for Listeria survival and persistence through mutagenesis and culture-based models. We also study microbial populations and metagenomes to get the full view of hazards that are present on foods.
We are equally interested in translating what we learn during genome sequencing and microbiome studies towards the improved detection of Listeria and other invasive pathogens. These studies include the optimisation of metagenomic workflows for detection of bacterial bloodstream infections in collaboration with our clinical and biotechnology partners.