Research Profile - Teresa Bergholz
“The safety of food can be threatened by various microbes. Food Safety and Microbiology is a constantly changing field of study. New challenges always arise, which make it a very exciting and dynamic research area. Everyone can be impacted by foodborne illness, and it’s great to know that the work you do can have a positive impact on many people.”
Teresa Bergholz is an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary and Microbiological Sciences. She grew up in Michigan, and received her B.S. in Microbiology in 2000 and Ph.D. in Food Science in 2007, both from Michigan State University. She was a postdoctoral research associate at the Food Safety Lab at Cornell University before joining NDSU in the fall 2012. She is married to Dr. Peter Bergholz and they have two young daughters
The primary focus of Dr. Bergholz’s current research is the microbial safety of fresh produce. Foodborne disease is a considerable public health problem, causing an estimated 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths per year in the United States. Researchers estimate that 25% of foodborne outbreaks are linked to contaminated produce. In addition to the negative impact on public health, there are substantial economic losses due to foodborne disease, both in terms of cost of healthcare as well as cost of lost product and revenue to food producers.
In the short term, her research group is studying how foodborne pathogens are able to survive on fresh produce, with the ultimate goal of exploiting their survival mechanisms to use against them. Long-term research goals are to understand the molecular mechanisms of stress response in foodborne pathogens and the role these responses play in disease development, as well as to understand how these stress response functions vary with genetic diversity within a pathogen population. She plans to use this information to develop new treatments to reduce pathogens on fresh produce.
Why it Matters
Human illness linked to consumption of fresh produce has increased dramatically over the past few decades, and there have been a number of high profile outbreaks in the past few years, such as Listeria monocytogenes on cantaloupes. The current dietary recommendations are for people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and it is important that these products are as safe as possible. Developing new techniques to kill pathogens that may be found on fresh produce could contribute to a significant reduction in human illnesses.
Dr. Bergholz teaches two courses at NDSU, Food Microbiology and Advanced Food Microbiology. She has two graduate students and two undergraduate students that help with her program. Her graduate student, Deepti Tyagi, a master’s student in Microbiology, is the lead student on the project and is conducting the bacterial survival studies on lettuce as well as monitoring changes in the bacterial transcriptome (the set of all RNA molecules, including mRNA, rRNA, tRNA, and other non-coding RNA produced in a population of cells) when inoculated onto lettuce leaves. A recent NDSU banner story features Ms. Tyagi’s research studying how bacteria survive on produce (http://www.ndsu.edu/news/banner_stories/deeptityagi/).
Dr. Teresa Bergholz
130A Van Es
North Dakota State University