Director: Carl E. Cerniglia, Ph.D.
The Division of Microbiology's goals are to perform fundamental and applied research to address critical issues in support of the FDA mission. The Division's research projects are based on expertise of division staff and consultation with scientists from other FDA Centers, regulatory agencies, academia, and industry.
The Division staff includes research scientists, research support staff, postdoctoral fellows, undergraduate and graduate students, visiting scientists, and program support specialists. The Division staff has the facilities and equipment to help address the scientific challenges encountered by FDA and other government organizations. The Division of Microbiology scientists are actively engaged in research addressing FDA issues with special emphasis on:
- Developing methods to detect, identify, and characterize foodborne pathogens.
- Determining antimicrobial resistance and virulence mechanisms of microbial pathogens.
- Using state-of-the-art molecular biological approaches to monitor interactions between human microbiota—the community of microorganisms found naturally in the body—antimicrobial agents, food contaminants, food additives, food supplements, and FDA-regulated products.
- Conducting studies impacting women's health.
- Improving environmental risk assessments of priority pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and drugs, by integrating systems biology approaches.
- Developing new models of smokeless-tobacco toxicity with the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.
- Condcuting research involving nanotechnology.
Upcoming Plans for Research
Food Safety, Food Biosecurity, and Methods Development
- Determine the effect of sunlight on the environmental survival of noroviruses—an increasingly common virus normally found in foods—and contamination of farm produce.
- Determine the impact of viral genetic material on Salmonella infection using in vitro (cell-based) models and identify factors that are important to the transfer of viral genetic material among bacteria found in the gut.
- Determine the antibacterial effect of silver nanoparticles/silver ions from food contact materials in consumer-use products. This research will specifically assess the potential exposure risk and impact on gut microbiota.
Antimicrobials and Pharmaceutical Products
- Determine the impact of low levels of tetracycline—a commonly used antibiotic—on human intestinal microbiota using omics and analytical chemistry methods.
- Identify and characterize antibiotic-resistant Salmonella from imported food samples and investigate the transferability of antibiotic-resistance genes to other intestinal bacteria.
Microbes and Host Interactions
- Extend studies on the bioavailability—the amount of a substance that is actually absorbed into the body—of antimicrobials and the impact of antimicrobial residues on the human-intestinal microbiota.
- Identify microRNAs (biomarkers or disease indicators) involved in the control of genetic interactions and disease-development processes associated with anthrax. This research will also attempt to identify biomarkers that could possibly be targeted to provide therapeutic effects.
Office of Women’s Health Projects
- Evaluate differences in mode-of-cellular toxicity associated with vaginal epithelial cells induced by various graphene nanoparticles as potential vaginal drug-delivery vehicles.
- Characterize the efflux pump activities—cellular function contributing to antibiotic resistance—in bacteria associated with diseases of the urinary tract. This research will also investigate the genetic interactions involved in efflux pump regulation.
- Continue analysis of the mechanism of fluoroquinolone (a commonly prescribed group of antibiotics) break down by drug-resistant bacteria from wastewater.
- Continue analysis of the mechanism behind the bacterial degradation of BP crude oil by analyzing and utilizing a broad range of data sources.
- Conduct in vitro assays to screen for human-skin microbiota cell toxicity in the presence of nanomaterials and determine the effect of nanomaterials commonly used in cosmetics on bacteria living on human skin and their interactions with the environment.
- Continue collaboration with the Arkansas Research Consortium in Nanotechnology to test graphene-induced toxicity associated with the gut and intestine.
- Conduct silver nanoparticle-exposure studies on gut microbiota.
Ongoing Research Projects
- Antimicrobial properties of ZnO and TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs) against multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus and Enterococcus spp. and their cytotoxic and genotoxic potential in bacteria and normal human epidermal keratinocytes (NHEK) and primary intestinal cells
- Antimicrobial susceptibilities of Clostridium perfringens strains isolated from different sources and genetic characterizations of resistance
- Assessment of size and shape dependent-toxicity of silver nanoparticles as measured by changes in the permeability at the gastrointestinal surface
- Characterization of plasmid-associated antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella enterica serovars associated with poultry and human infections
- Chromogenic agar and PCR identification of enterotoxigenic Bacullus cereus from naturally contaminated dietary supplements
- Co-display of hemagglutinin and CD154 on the surface of yeast cells as a vaccine against avian influenza
- Detection of cytolethal distending toxin cdtB, pltA, and pltB homologs of components of the pertussis toxin genes by PCR and studies on functionality of cdtB in non-typhoidal Salmonella spp
- Development of an infectivity assay to detect human norovirus from contaminated food
- Does the durable nanoparticle bioaccumulation in macrophages increase susceptibility to bacterial infection
- Effects of phytoestrogens on gene-expression responses of vaginal epithelial cells after contact with Candida albicans
- Evaluate the impact of Deepwater Horizon oil-contaminated Gulf seafood residues in edible tissues on the human-intestinal microbiota of the consumer
- Evaluation of methods used to measure growth of Staphylococcus aureus and the production of toxic shock syndrome toxin-1 as influenced by menstrual tampons
- Exploring strategies for resuscitation and enrichment of Burkholderia cepacia complex strains in pharmaceutical products
- Gene-expression responses by avirulent Bacillus anthracis and human epithelial cells during initial host-pathogen contact
- Graphene-induced toxicity on the population of intestinal microbiota and gut-associated immune response
- Immunological effects of nanoparticles on induction of pro-inflammatory responses to Candida albicans by vaginal epithelial cells
- Impact of antimicrobial residues on the human gastrointestinal tract microbiota
- Investigating the mechanisms of drug resistance and pathogenicity in clinical Escherichia coli isolates from veterinary sources
- Maintenance of germfree BALB/c mice in isolators for use in future protocols
- Molecular and seroepidemiology of coronavirus and disease spectrum in adults, children, domestic animals, and wildlife in the U.S.
- Microbial genetics of non-O157:H7 Shiga-like toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) isolated from humans and foods
- Quantification proteomic, transcriptomic, and phenotypic microarray analysis of C. jejuni for the identification of colonization factors in poultry
- Reducing health risks from antimicrobial-resistant bacteria by eliminating environmental reservoirs of resistance