Charles W. Kaspar

Picture of Charles W. KasparDirector, Food Research Institute
Professor, Department of Bacteriology, UW-Madison

1550 Linden Drive
(608) 263-6936
3554 Microbial Sciences Building

Department Webpage


  • BS 1980, Biology, University of Nebraska–Omaha
  • MS 1983, Microbiology, Iowa State University
  • PhD 1986, Microbiology, Iowa State University
  • Postdoc, 1986–88, University of Maryland

Research Interests

E. coli O157:H7; Stress-response systems; Pre-harvest food safety; Molecular and physiological mechanisms of acid tolerance

Research Focus

Our research is primarily focused on the transmission and evolution of two zoonotic pathogens, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) and Salmonella. These pathogens reside in the intestinal tracts of animal hosts where they encounter diverse microbial communities, fluctuating nutrient levels, and myriad host factors. Transmission between hosts requires these pathogens to survive varied environmental conditions. The general stress protection system (regulated by the alternative sigma factor, σs) is known to play a central role in environmental persistence and transmission. Acid and desiccation tolerance are two transmission-associated phenotypes that are dependent upon σs–regulated genes. We are also investigating the role of prophage in fitness. EHEC harbor multiple lambda-like prophage and cryptic phage remnants in their genome that facilitate genomic rearrangements, gene duplications, and deletions by homologous recombination. We are investigating how these phage-mediated genomic rearrangements influence the persistence of EHEC in its bovine host and the environment. The goals of our research are to use results from these fundamental studies in the development of strategies to reduce pathogen transmission.

Recent Publications

Aspire BakeriesCampbell Soup CompanyFonterraGeneral MillsGreat LakesHormel Foods (Jennie-O Turkey Store)KerryKraft Foods (Oscar Mayer Foods)OSIPepsiCoSchreiber FoodsSugar CreekSwift Prepared FoodsTyson