Title: EPI Seminar Committee Chair, and Associate Professor
College: Agriculture and Life Sciences
Department: Food Science and Human Nutrition; Microbiology and Cell Science (affiliate)
Research Interests: Food microbiology
Curriculum vitae: PDF
Hobbies: Sailing, painting, and caring for two dogs and eight turtles
Dr. Wright’s research focuses on pathogens that are relevant to the seafood industry. In particular, she is interested in gram-negative bacteria of the genus Vibrio which inhabit estuarine environments and are associated with popular seafood species such as oysters, clams, crabs and shrimp. While several species of Vibrio cause illness in people, Dr. Wright predominantly works with V. vulnificus which can cause rapid systemic infections due to consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish. Individuals with pre-existing immune deficiency problems, diabetes, or diseases affecting their liver or iron levels (hemochromatosis) are more susceptible to these infections and may succumb to death within one to two days after exposure.
Dr. Wright’s laboratory uses molecular diagnostic systems such as real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to measure the effectiveness of different post-harvest treatments at eliminating Vibrios from oysters. To better assist the oyster industry, Dr. Wright and others at the University of Florida helped to establish the Oyster Industry Laboratory in Apalachicola, Florida. The lab is supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Sea Grant and evaluates post-harvest treatments for commercial oyster production in order to ascertain their effectiveness in reducing or eliminating Vibrio in harvested oysters. Unfortunately, most of these treatments will kill the oyster, and her group is currently investigating effective treatments that will still maintain oyster viability. She is also involved with monitoring oysters in their natural estuarine habitat, and is exploring the pathways through which Vibrios infect shellfish and cause disease.
Before arriving at the University of Florida in the summer of 1999, Dr. Wright researched Vibrio and other infectious diseases in Baltimore at the University of Maryland and at the Center of Marine Biotechnology for 15 years.
“Through the Emerging Pathogens Institute, I hope to integrate my research on Vibrio vulnificus with work on the other Vibrio species,” Dr. Wright said. “These are all emerging pathogens that live in the marine environment, and because of global warming and other human impact, their prevalence and perhaps even their virulence seem to be changing. I hope to work with others in EPI to better understand these species, their pathways of infection, and how we can reduce the risk of their transmission to people through seafood.”
Dr. Wright served on the steering committee that founded EPI and she now chairs EPI’s seminar committee. She collaborates with other EPI researchers with Vibrio-related interests, including Dr. Judy Johnson and Dr. Afsar Ali (V. cholerae biology); Dr. Paul Gulig (V. vulnificus pathogenesis); Dr. Max Teplitski (bacterial communication); Dr. Barbara Sheppard (shellfish pathogens); Dr. Steve Otwell (seafood pathogens); Dr. Michelle Danyluk and Dr. Keith Schneider (Salmonella diagnostics).
Dr. Wright lives in Micanopy with her husband, Dave Maneval, Jr., who also works in nutrition research in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University of Florida. Her son will enter the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in the fall of 2008.
359 Food Science and Human Nutrition
University of Florida
P.O. Box 110370
Gainesville, Florida 32611-0370
Voice: (352) 392-1991 ext. 311
Fax: (352) 273-6890