The focus of my research is on the application of microbial genomics to address fundamental questions in emerging infectious diseases research. My current interests are directed towards large-scale sequencing and phylogenomic studies investigating major public health threats, such as the causative agents of plague and cholera, Yersinia pestis and Vibrio cholerae, and the dominant cause of food-borne disease in North America, Escherichia coli O157:H7. Experimental approaches include: 1) Microbial Genome Sequencing - the gathering of additional sequence data as prerequisite to capture the genome architecture and genomic diversity in environmental or clinical settings, 2) Phylogenomics - the development of bioinformatics tools to survey the plasticity within pathogen populations and elucidate the ancestry of microbial species, 3) Microbial Diversity – the discovery of subtle yet important genetic variations in gene content and activity, and 4) Pathogenicity - the study of virulence determinants and dynamic host-pathogen interactions.
Data from this research provide crucial insights into the make-up of bacterial pathogens and how genomic variants relate to differences in evolutionary and ecological niches that underlie human transmissibility, infectivity, and disease outcome. Most importantly, this research can help to initiate therapeutic and diagnostic countermeasures in an attempt to decrease human morbidity rates.