Molecular Basis of Campylobacter jejuni Infection

Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni) is the leading cause of bacterial food poisoning worldwide, infecting approximately 300,000 Canadians, three million Americans, and even higher numbers in developing countries each year. Most cases result from eating contaminated poultry; other causes include exposure to young animals and drinking contaminated water or milk. The bacteria cause severe bloody diarrhea, vomiting and fever, and can lead to more serious medical problems such as bowel disease, arthritis and paralysis. Compared to well-studied bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, relatively little is known about how C. jejuni causes disease. Using new genetic tools, Dr. Erin Gaynor is identifying and characterizing C. jejuni genes involved in causing infection. She is examining the interaction between the pathogen and host cells to determine how the bacteria cause disease at the molecular level. Dr. Gaynor is also investigating why C. jejuni causes disease in humans when it harmlessly inhabits the intestinal tracts of many other animals, and how host systems respond to infection with the bacteria. This research may lead to a greater understanding of the mechanisms of pathogenesis for C. jejuni and contribute to the development of new treatments and potentially a vaccine to prevent infection from occurring.