Title: Associate Professor of Microbiology and EPI investigator
College/Institute: Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, IFAS
Department: Animal Sciences, IFAS
Research interests: Molecular Microbiology, Bacterial Pathogenesis, Food Safety
Curriculum vitae: PDF

In March of 2011, Dr. Kwang Cheol Jeong joined the faculty of the University of Florida as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the department of animal sciences and the Emerging Pathogens Institute.

Dr. Jeong began his scientific career in Korea as a molecular microbiologist focused on the identification of virulence factors and understanding of the gene regulation mechanisms of Vibrio vulnificus. During his doctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he continued to explore bacterial pathogenesis by examining the mechanisms of acid tolerance and survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in the host. After obtaining his Ph.D., Dr. Jeong took a postdoctoral position at the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis to characterize the virulence traits of Legionella pneumophila, an intracellular pathogen that causes a pneumonia-like illness called Legionnaires’ disease. His research focused on the characterization of the Legionella type IV secretion system (T4SS) and effector proteins that were secreted into the host cells via the T4SS.

Dr. Jeong’s research motto, “from the bench to the real world,’’ is one he strives to put into practice. His research areas promote not only basic science but also the applied, such as with his work into the Shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC). STEC O157 causes hemorrhagic colitis and hemolytic uremic syndrome in humans which has become a significant public health concern, as outbreaks of this pathogen cause tremendous negative effects to the economy when food has to be recalled. Currently Dr. Jeong’s research program is divided into two interest areas:


Basic Science: Understanding molecular mechanisms of virulence of STEC

The primary goal of the basic science aspect of his research team is to understand molecular mechanisms of colonization, host-microbe interactions, and survival of bacterial pathogens in hosts, both in animals and humans. Dr. Jeong’s laboratory is currently identifiying genetic traits responsible for survival ofE. coli O157:H7 in the host, as well as characterizing genes and proteins. A repertoire of knowledge of molecular biological, biochemical, cell biology, and genetic techniques will continue to be applicable to various aspects of this research.


Applied Science: Development of intervention technologies to prevent outbreaks of illness caused by pathogens

Another aspect of Dr. Jeong’s work is to develop intervention technologies to fight against pathogens. His laboratory uses research findings acquired from the basic sciences (bench) to develop technologies applicable in the real world. Two research interests are inter-dependent for the success of his research team. While looking for new targets, passive immunity will be targeted for a potential strategy to interveneE. coli O157:H7 colonization in farm animals and eventually humans. A number of E. coli O157:H7 factors are involved in colonization in host cells, including pili, outer membrane proteins, flagella, and Type III secretion system (T3SS). As cattle serve as a key reservoir for this pathogen and are considered to be a major transmission route to humans, the intervention strategies generated by Dr. Jeong’s laboratory will primarily focus on cattle at the pre-harvest level.

Visit the KC Jeong Laboratory website here.

Contact information:
Emerging Pathogens Institute
University of Florida
P.O. Box 100009
Gainesville, Florida 32610-0009
Voice: (352) 294-5376
Email: kcjeong@ufl.edu