*Applications will be reviewed on a rolling-basis.
A research opportunity is currently available at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), in the Office of Applied Research and Safety Assessment (OARSA) located in College Park, Maryland.
In recent years several foodborne parasites have emerged globally causing relevant public health issues. Among them Cyclospora cayetanensis has impacted the produce industry especially in North America. C. cayetanensis causes a diarrheal illness called cyclosporiasis and the symptoms of cyclosporiasis include explosive watery diarrhea, weight loss, cramping, bloating, increasing gas, nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite. Although no fatal cases of this disease have been reported, this infection can lead to hospitalization. Large multistate outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been reported in U.S. since the mid 90’s. Especially in the last six years, these multistate outbreaks have affected thousands of U.S. citizens. For years these outbreaks have been linked mainly to imported fresh produce such as raspberries, cilantro, basil, snow peas. and lettuce. The past outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to several types of imported fresh produce (e.g., basil, cilantro, mesclun lettuce, raspberries, and snow peas). Fresh cilantro imported from Puebla, Mexico was a relevant commodity associated with outbreaks that occurred from 2013 to 2015. In 2018 and 2019 a total of 2,299 and 2,408 domestically acquired cases of cyclosporiasis were reported to CDC, respectively. In 2018, the two major cyclosporiasis outbreaks investigated were linked to fresh produce vegetable trays produced by Del Monte and a variety of salads sold at McDonald’s restaurants.
During these investigations fresh produce harvested in the US was sampled and tested positive for the presence of C. cayetanensis by the detection method published in the FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual under Chapter 19b. These findings raised significant concerns among US fresh produce growers and impacted the fresh produce industry. These laboratory results also indicated that the implicated produce samples had very low concentration of the parasite. In addition, based on these epidemiological investigations, the produce implicated in these outbreaks could have been contaminated through different routes. The life cycle of C. cayetanensis is quite complex but based on current scientific knowledge humans are the only definitive hosts for the parasite and no paratenic hosts have yet been identified. Infected humans excrete unsporulated, non-infective oocysts of the parasite in their stools which sporulate and become infective after approximately 7 to 10 days in the environment. These oocysts do not reproduce outside the definitive host, but it is possible that intermediate paratenic hosts may be relevant in transporting these oocysts from different points contributing for the dissemination of the parasite which may eventually lead to the contamination of food or agricultural and recreational water.
Having advanced molecular laboratory methods applied to detect and characterize C. cayetanensis is crucial to close significant knowledge gaps about the prevalence of this parasite in foods and the dispersion of the parasite in the environment. The fellow will learn how to develop, optimize and apply advanced molecular laboratory methods to detect and characterize the parasite in several types of samples. The fellow will also learn how to apply the developed advanced molecular methods to characterize the parasite in a variety of samples including produce, leftover foods from consumers, and agricultural water in an effort to provide the basis to link cases of infections and assist in source tracking.
Anticipated Appointment Start Date: Fall/Winter 2021; start date is flexible
This program, administered by ORAU through its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, was established through an interagency agreement between DOE and FDA. The initial appointment is for seven months, but may be renewed upon recommendation of FDA contingent on the availability of funds. The participant will receive a monthly stipend commensurate with educational level and experience. Proof of health insurance is required for participation in this program. The appointment is full-time at FDA in the College Park, Maryland, area. Participants do not become employees of FDA, DOE or the program administrator, and there are no employment-related benefits.
If you have questions, send an email to ORISE.FDA.CFSAN@orau.org. Please include the reference code for this opportunity in your email.