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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Irshad M. Sulaiman, M.Sc., M.Phil, Ph.D.

Irshad M. Sulaiman, M.Sc., M.Phil, Ph.D. 

Irshad M. Sulaiman, M.Sc., M.Phil, Ph.D.

Microbiological Sciences Branch
Southeast Regional Laboratory (SRL)
Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA)
Atlanta, Georgia


Ph.D. – University of Delhi, India
M.Phil. – A. M. University, India
M.Sc. – A. M. University, India

FDA Experience – 5 and half years (2008-Present)

Professional Experience

2011-Present: Adjunct Professor, Department of Biology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia
2008-Present: Research Microbiologist, Southeast Regional Laboratory, FDA, Atlanta, Georgia
2003-2008: Research Scientist, Division of Scientific Resources, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia
1997-2003: Visiting Scientist, Division of Parasitic Diseases, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia
1996-1997: Research Fellow, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, Georgia
1993-1996: Young Scientist, National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi


Research Interests

Dr. Sulaiman joined the Southeast Regional Laboratory, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, Atlanta, Georgia as a Research Microbiologist on October 12th of 2008. Before coming to FDA, Dr. Sulaiman worked at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for eleven and half years from 1997 to 2008. Dr. Sulaiman has over 20 years of research experience and expertise in the field of molecular genetics and its applications in method development to detect and differentiate various human-pathogenic emerging infectious agents. Dr. Sulaiman obtained his PhD degree in 1992 to study Conservation Biology, Population Genetics and Ecology of Endangered Species from the University of Delhi.

Dr. Sulaiman’s research for over two decades has focused on the molecular genetic characterization and rapid detection methods for human-pathogenic parasites (Cyclospora, Cryptosporidium, Giardia), bacteria (Cronobacter, Clostridium, Bacillus, Salmonella, Listeria), viruses (Orthopox, SARS, Hepatitis A), fungi (Microsporidia, Indicator fungal species from environmental swabs, and human-pathogenic fungi from Greek yogurt), and some pest species (the FDA “Dirty 22” species) responsible for spreading of foodborne pathogens, from outbreak settings, routine surveillance and sporadic cases for their Detection, Prevalence, Epidemiology, Transmission Dynamics, Taxonomy, Phylogeny and Evolutionary Relationships of Public Health Importance.

Dr. Sulaiman has published 72 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals with high impact factors, and written 5 book chapters in his area of expertise. Dr. Sulaiman has also 78 peer reviewed abstracts to his credit.

Proposed Research Project for an FDA Commissioner's Fellow

(i) Development of a rapid diagnostic method that can detect and differentiate human-pathogenic fungi: DNA sequencing approach

To date, the taxonomy of fungi is in a state of constant flux. However, in recent years the DNA based molecular characterizations of fungi have been proven extremely successful to understand the species structure and genetic polymorphism both at inter- and intra- species level (Sulaiman et al. 2013). There is an estimate that the kingdom fungi have approximately 1.5 million to 5 million species that grow as hyphae, with approximately 5% of these having been formally classified. Approximately 100,000 genera have been identified as the mold species, and 80 of them have been reported to cause illness in humans. In the proposed study, a rapid and robust molecular diagnostic method for the detection and differentiation of human-pathogenic fungal species (Yeast and Molds) will be developed, evaluated and validated. This assay will be utilized for faster confirmation of the fungi at the species level by Sanger DNA sequencing and if required by next generation sequencing, when any of these human-pathogenic fungal species is recovered by following conventional microbiological protocols. This novel molecular method will further help in understanding the transmission dynamics of these fungal species, and in their prevention and control. It should be utilized for the final confirmation of isolates recovered from an outbreak, sporadic cases, routine surveillance, and the environmental swab samples including pharmaceutical settings of public health importance.

(ii) Multi-locus genetic characterization of some apicomplexan parasites identified to cause the food-borne diseases and outbreaks for their rapid detection and differentiation

Cyclospora and Cryptosporidium are apicocomplexan parasites. Some of the species such as C. cayetanensis, C. hominis and C. parvum are human-pathogenic that infect the gastrointestinal track and cause acute gastrointestinal illness. In recent years, these parasites have led to several foodborne and waterborne outbreaks in the United States and Canada. Although in the last decade Cryptosporidium has been widely characterized, there is a need to characterize more C. cayetanensis isolates as little is known about its origin, apparent zoonotic reservoirs, and genetic relationships with other coccidian parasites (Sulaiman et al. 2013, Sulaiman et al. 2014). Molecular characterization of human-pathogenic microorganisms has led to the development of several diagnostic assays which have helped in understanding the transmission dynamics and in conducting epidemiologic investigations. Thus, in the proposed study some conserved and regulatory genes of the above parasites will be characterized for their rapid detection from various food matrices and understanding their genetic diversity.

(iii) Development of COI gene based insect-barcoding to characterize the Group I, Group II, and Group III “Dirty 22” species known to spread foodborne pathogens

A total of 22 common pest species (the “Dirty 22” species) have been regarded by FDA for the spreading of food-borne diseases. Recently, the “Dirty 22” species was further categorized into 4 different groups: Group I include 4 cockroach species, Group II includes 2 ant species, Group III includes 12 fly species, and Group IV includes 4 rodent species. A two-step SSU rRNA gene nested PCR based RFLP protocol was developed that can rapidly amplify and differentiate the 4 species of Group I which include Blattella germanica, Blatta orientalis, Periplaneta americana, and Supella longipalpa (Sulaiman et al. 2011). Later 3 nested PCR primer sets were designed based on the SSU rRNA, elongation factor 1-alpha (EF-1a) and wingless (WNT-1) genes for the multi-locus genetic characterization of both of the Group II “Dirty 22” species which include Monomorium pharaonis and Solenopsis molesta (Sulaiman et al. 2012). DNA barcoding has been widely successful in species identification in a wide range of zoonotic species that uses the 5’ region of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) gene as the genetic marker. In the proposed study, COI gene based insect-barcoding will be performed to rapidly identify members of Group I, Group II and Group III “Dirty 22” species. These novel PCR methods will be used when the specimens cannot be identified using the conventional microscopic methods.

(iv) Development of a molecular diagnostic method that can rapidly detect and differentiate the human-pathogenic Cronobacter species from infant food

Currently in our food microbiology program, to determine the uniqueness of a Cronobacter isolate recovered from various sources, the said isolates are identified by performing the following analysis: (i) a real-time PCR protocol for rapid screening, and (ii) a cultural protocol for the final detection and isolation of Cronobacter species that include the utilization of Chromogenic agars to isolate the culture for confirmation. In the proposed study a rapid and robust molecular diagnostic method will be developed for the detection and differentiation of Cronobacter species in various food matrices consumed by the neonatal. This assay will be utilized when this human food-borne pathogen is recovered for faster confirmation using the state-to-the-art molecular techniques including the nucleotide sequence characterization. This novel assay will help in understanding the transmission dynamics of these human-pathogenic bacteria, and in their prevention and control. It will also be utilized for the confirmation of isolates recovered from an outbreak, sporadic cases, routine surveillance, and the environmental isolates of public health importance.

(v) Rapid detection of Bacillus cereus from raw and processed food using DNA sequencing of conserved and regulatory genes

Bacillus cereus is an aerobic spore-forming bacterium that can infect raw and processed foods and cause foodborne illness in humans. The current food microbiology program of FDA utilizes basic microbiologic protocols for their presence in food. In the proposed study, a rapid DNA-sequencing molecular method will be developed for the detection and differentiation of Bacillus cereus with other closely related Bacillus species from raw and processed food products. This novel assay will be used when this human food-borne pathogen is recovered for faster confirmation using the multilocus sequence characterization of the conserved and regulatory loci. This tool will not only help in their rapid detection, and also be used for the genetic confirmation of Bacillus cereus and related isolates recovered from food, foodborne outbreak, sporadic cases, routine surveillance, and the environmental isolates of public health importance.

The FDA Regulatory Science Priority Area for the project is Ensure FDA Readiness to Evaluate Innovative Emerging Technologies.

Applicant Requirements

Applicants must have a Doctoral level degree (MD, DO, DVM, DDS, DPM, PharmD, or PhD in the field of biological sciences). Applicants must be U.S. citizens, or non-citizen nationals who have been admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence at the time their applications are submitted. Applicants cannot be current FDA employees or FDA contractors.

Selected Recent Publications


1. Sulaiman IM, Ortega Y, Simpson, and Kerdahi K. 2014. Genetic characterization of human-pathogenic Cyclospora cayetanensis parasites from three endemic regions at the 18S ribosomal RNA locus. Infect. Genet. Evol. 22: 229-234.

2. Sulaiman IM, Torres P, Simpson S, Kerdahi K, and Ortega Y. 2013. Sequence characterization of heat shock protein gene of Cyclospora cayetanensis isolates from Nepal, Mexico, and Peru. J. Parasitol. 99: 379-382.

3. Sulaiman IM, Anderson M, Oi DH, Simpson S. and Kerdahi K. 2012. Multilocus genetic characterization of two ant vectors (Group II "Dirty 22" species) known to contaminate food and food products and spread foodborne pathogens. J. Food Protec. 75:1447-1452

4. Sulaiman IM, Anderson M, Khristova K, Tang T, Sulaiman N, Phifer E, Simpson S, and Kerdahi K. 2011. Development of a PCR-RFLP protocol for rapid detection and differentiation of four cockroach vectors (Group I “Dirty 22” Species) responsible for food contamination and spreading of foodborne pathogens: A public health importance. J. Food Protec. 74: 1883-1890.

5. Sulaiman IM, Tang K, Osborne J, Sammons S, and Wohlhueter RM. 2007. GeneChip resequencing of smallpox virus genome can identify novel strains: A biodefense application. J. Clin. Microbiol. 45:358-363.