Food Microbiology Laboratory
Head: Connor Thomas
The main focus of research in my laboratory is food microbiology. I am particularly interested in several important food-borne pathogens that have particular relevance to South Australian food production systems e.g. Listeria monocytogenes and Vibrio spp.
My research on L. monocytogenes focuses on potential for cell-cell interactions with protozoans to assist L. monocytogenes to survive in environments such as food processing facilities and the role of these associations in protecting the bacteria from chemical disinfectants and sanitisers. My laboratory also works on the role of plasmid encoded genes in determining fitness for L. monocytogenes to survive in diverse environments.
My laboratory’s work on marine vibrios has arisen from South Australian fishing industry identified needs. Future SA exports of marine animal foods will depend on ability to ensure that those foods do not harbour these potentially pathogenic bacteria. Hence projects offered by my laboratory have direct application to the food industry.
I also collaborate with food processing engineers and risk modellers on work that examines the association of pathogenic bacteria with foods, and the mathematical modelling of growth and inactivation of these bacteria in foods and model food systems. My collaborators are:
- Dr Ken Davey, Food Technology Research Group, School of Chemical Engineering, University of Adelaide, and
- Dr Andrew Pointon, SARDI Food Safety group.
These collaborative programs are aimed at providing risk assessment and predictive microbiology for Australian food industries based on modelling of bacterial growth and death. This collaborative effort was recognised in 2005 by the the South Australian State Government through the State Premier’s Science Excellence Award for Research for Public Good and an SA Great Award.