Bacillus cereus is an important pathogenic agent of the dairy supply chain in Brazil and other countries where it's production of diarrheal and emetic toxins make it a serious public health concern. The problem is exacerbated by the ability of B. cereus strains to survive various heat-treatments used in dairy processing. Surprisingly little is known about the genetic and evolutionary mechanisms involved in surviving the series of selective bottlenecks, imposed by heat treatment, and a comprehensive population genomic study of B. cereus is necessary to identify the genetic elements involved in survival through diary processing, from farm to consumer. In this collaborative proposal, we propose to sample and sequence the genomes of representative B. cereus isolates throughout the dairy processing chain, and to use state-of-the-art genome-wide association studies to identify potential genetic markers of survival and virulence. This approach has been applied recently for Campylobacter through the poultry processing chain by our collaborators and is an important step towards understanding the biology of B. cereus pathogens and the development of improved diagnostic tools and targeted interventions.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: