Xiaohui Zhou, assistant professor of pathobiology, has received a four-year, $1.5 million NIH Research Project Grant (RO1) to study the foodborne pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus. According to the CDC, this strain of Vibrio is responsible for an estimated 45,000 illnesses in the United States every year.
Zhou first began researching this common seafood pathogen while a graduate student at Washington State University. V. parahaemolyticus causes an intestinal disease usually contracted by eating raw or undercooked seafood, particularly oysters. In some people, the illness can be quite serious.
“The overall goal of my study is to develop more effective and efficient approaches to treat infectious disease that is caused by bacterial pathogens,” Zhou says.
To do this, Zhou must first understand how the pathogens cause disease and must identify the proteins, or virulence factors, used by the bacteria to disrupt normal human intestinal cell processes.