Left & Center: Britney doing research Right: Estuarine field sites, Hoop Pole Creek in Morehead City, NC.
My research focuses on the opportunistic human pathogen, Vibrio vulnificus, the most fatal seafood borne pathogen in the world. This bacterium carries a 50% mortality rate, and causes 95% of all seafood related deaths in the United States each year, primarily after consumption of raw or undercooked seafood. V. vulnificus is found naturally in estuarine environments, including water, sediment, oysters, shrimp, clams, and fish. Based on genetic differences, strains of this species are subtyped into clinical (C) and environmental (E) genotypes. Distribution of these genotypes in the environment is skewed, with E-genotypes dominating in oysters and water, although C-genotypes cause most septicemia cases. This disparity has led to the ongoing question in our lab, “why do C-genotypes cause disease more frequently than E-genotypes?”
V. vulnificus has the capability to metabolize in conditions lacking oxygen as well as aerobic conditions. Such phenotypic plasticity allows V. vulnificus to rapidly adapt to changing environments and is an important factor in the colonization and growth in these varying niches. My current research focuses on revealing the fundamental molecular mechanisms that facilitate the metabolic flexibility for this pathogen to successfully respond to hypoxia/anoxia, a prevailing environmental and physiological stressor. The importance of understanding this critical factor should provide insight into the virulence potential of these specific genotypes in V. vulnificus, a pathogen in which no clear virulence factor has been described.
My other interests include understanding how global climate change impacts the potential for virulence in multiple Vibrio species, and understanding the use of multi-chromosomal systems in bacteria. I am currently working in collaboration with Dr. Anna Ivanina in Dr. Sokolova’s Lab to understand the role of hypoxia/anoxia on V. coralliilyticus, a potential oyster pathogen.
Phippen BL, Oliver JD. 2015. Clinical and environmental genotypes of Vibrio vulnificus display distinct, quorum-sensing-mediated, chitin detachment dynamics.Pathogens and disease 73.8 (2015): ftv072.
Phippen BL, Oliver JD. 2015. Role of anaerobiosis in capsule production and biofilm formation in Vibrio vulnificus. Infection and immunity 83:551-559.
B.L. Phippen, A.V. Ivanina, I.M. Sokolova, J.D. Oliver. Vibrio coralliilyticus causes rapid immune response and mortality in the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, after exposure to anoxia. Oral Presentation, Vibrio Conference, Roscoff, France, April 2016.
B.L. Phippen, and J.D. Oliver. In situ gene expression by the human pathogen, Vibrio vulnificus, exhibits distinct hypoxia driven profiles. Abstracts of the Vibrio Conference, Roscoff, France, 2016.
B.L. Phippen, and J.D. Oliver. A new method for investigating in vivo gene expression by Vibrio vulnificus in the Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Abstracts of the Vibrio Conference, Roscoff, France, 2016.
Aide Lasa, M. Ayrapetyan, B.L. Phippen, T.C. Williams, J.L. Romalde, and J.D. Oliver. Study of survival strategies of Vibrio toranzoniae. Abstracts of the Vibrio Conference, Roscoff, France, 2016.
BA Froelich, B.L. Phippen, P Fowler, RT Noble, and JD Oliver. Differences in Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus ecology between clams and oysters collected from the same location. Abstracts of the Vibrio Conference, Roscoff, France, 2016.
TC Williams, BA Froelich, B Phippen, P Fowler, RT Noble, and JD Oliver. Long-term assessment of V. vulnificus clinical and environmental genotype distributions in environmental samples from the North Carolina coast. Abstracts of the Vibrio Conference, Roscoff, France, 2016.
B.L. Phippen, J.D. Oliver. Differential gene expression of clinical and environmental isolates of Vibrio vulnificus in aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Abstracts of the Vibrio Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2014.
B.L. Phippen, J.D. Oliver. Investigating the molecular mechanisms responsible for chitin detachment in the opportunistic human pathogen, Vibrio vulnificus. Abstracts of the American Society for Microbiology Conference, New Orleans, LA, 2015.
B.L. Phippen, J.D. Oliver. Stay…just a little bit longer. Investigating the mechanisms responsible for chitin detachment dynamics in the opportunistic human pathogen, Vibrio vulnificus. Abstracts of UNCC Graduate Research Symposium, 2015.
B.L. Phippen, J.D. Oliver. From the environment to the human host, the opportunistic pathogen Vibrio vulnificus has the best of both worlds. Abstracts of UNCC Graduate Research Symposium, 2014.
B.A. Froelich, B. Phippen, A.H. Snedecker, R.P. Boyles, J.D. Oliver and R.T. Noble. Multi-year changes in Vibrio populations in the Neuse River Estuary of North Carolina, USA. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. Abstracts of the Vibrio Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2014.