Faculty and Staff Directory » Melha Mellata

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Melha Mellata

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: Food Science and Human Nutrition

Office: 3346 Food Sciences 536 Farm House Ln, Ames, IA 50011
Phone number: +1 515 294 9220
Email: mmellata@iastate.edu

Research interests

Over 75% of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans can be traced to animals. Most are the result of infections with enteric pathogens, with E coli and Salmonella being important human pathogens, causing substantial infections worldwide. In addition to causing human diseases, bacteria extra-intestinal pathogenic (E. coli) (ExPEC) also infect chickens and cause significant economic losses to the poultry industry, a predominant component of U.S. agriculture. Moreover, chickens are now suspected as a source of ExPEC that cause disease in humans, yet still dismissed as a danger to food production. Likewise, Salmonella enterica infections are a significant public health concern worldwide. Resistance to antibiotics among these bacteria complicates the therapeutic management of their infections. As a result, new treatments and prevention methods (for example, vaccines) are needed to prevent bacterial infections and increase food safety in the future.

Dr. Mellata’s research interests lie in the areas of pathogenesis of bacterial diseases and vaccine development. The long-term goal of the research program is to develop effective intervention strategies against bacterial infections and their antibiotic resistance. Her actual projects are directed towards understanding the molecular pathogenesis and zoonotic potential of foodborne bacteria, including Escherichia coli and Salmonella, host-pathogen interactions, and developing vaccines to control their infections in food-producing animals (chicken) and humans. Her research will benefit both human health and agricultural animal production and will enhance food safety by reducing the transmission of bacteria through the animal-food production pipeline.

Selected peer-reviewed articles        

  1. Maddux JT, ZR. Stromberg, R. Curtiss 3rd, and M. Mellata. 2017. Evaluation of Recombinant Attenuated Salmonella Vaccine Strains for Broad Protection against Extraintestinal Pathogenic Escherichia coli Front Immuno l 8:1280. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01280.
  2. Van Goor A, ZR Stromberg, and M. Mellata 2017. A recombinant multi-antigen vaccine with broad protection potential against avian pathogenic Escherichia coli. PlosOne 12(8):e0183929. 
  3. Mellata M, JR. Johnson, R. Curtiss III. 2017.  Escherichia coli isolates from commercial chicken meat and eggs cause sepsis, meningitis and urinary tract infection in rodent models of human infections. Zoonoses Public Health. 00:1–11. https://doi.org/10.1111/zph.12376
  4. Stromberg ZR, JR. Johnson, JM. Fairbrother, A. Van Goor, R. Curtiss 3rd, M. Mellata. 2017. Evaluation of Escherichia coli isolates from healthy chickens to determine their potential risk to poultry and human health. 12(7):e0180599.
  5. Mellata M, NM. Mitchell, F. Schödel, R. Curtiss 3rd, and GB Pier. 2016. Novel vaccine antigen combinations elicit protective immune responses against Escherichia coli sepsis. Vaccine 34 (5): 656-662
  6. Mitchell NM.,  JR. Johnson, B. Johnston, R. Curtiss III, and M. Mellata. 2015. Zoonotic Potential of Escherichia coli Isolates from Retail Chicken Meat Products and Eggs. Appl Environ Microbiol 81 (3) 1177-1187.
  7. Stacy AC., JT. Maddux, JA. Giron, R. Curtiss III, and M. Mellata. 2014. Evaluation of the prevalence and production of Escherichia coli common pilus among APEC strains and its potential role in virulence. PlosOne 9 (1): e86565.
  8. Guan L., J. Santander, M. Mellata, Y. Zhang, and R. Curtiss. 2013. Identification of the Iron Acquisition Machinery of Flavobacterium columnare. Dis Aquat Organ 106(2):129-138.
  9. Mellata, M. 2013. Human and Avian Extraintestinal Pathogenic E. coli: Infections, Zoonotic Risks, and Antibiotic Resistance Trends (review). Foodborne Pathogens and Diseases 10 (11):916-31.
  10. Dziva F, Hauser H, Connor TR, van Diemen PM, Prescott G, Langridge GC, Eckert S, Chaudhuri RR, Ewers C, Mellata M, Mukhopadhyay S, Curtiss R 3rd, Dougan G, Wieler LH, Thomson NR, Pickard DJ, Stevens MP. 2013 Sequencing and Functional Annotation of Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli Serogroup O78 Strains Reveal the Evolution of E. coli Lineages Pathogenic for Poultry via Distinct Mechanisms. Infect. Immun. 81(3):838-49.
  11. Mellata M., JT. Maddux, T. Nam, N. Thomson, H. Hauser, MP. Stevens, S. Mukhopadhyay, S. Sarker, A. Crabbe, C. Nickerson, J. Santander, and R. Curtiss III. 2012. New Insights into the Bacterial Fitness-associated Mechanisms Revealed by the Characterization of Large Plasmids of an Avian Pathogenic E. coli PlosOne 7(1):e29481.

Complete List of Published Work in my Google scholar listing


Press and news releases

  • New report highlights food and ag science breakthroughs at Iowa State University and 10 other universities” By Dan Klotz and Brian Meyer 11/03/2017. http://fshn.hs.iastate.edu/news/2017/11/03/new-report-highlights-food-ag-science-breakthroughs-iowa-state-university-10-universities/
  • Iowa State researchers look into vaccines that can prevent, treat diseases caused by E.coli in humans, poultry” by Whitney Sager 10/10/2017. http://fshn.hs.iastate.edu/news/2017/10/10/iowa-state-researchers-look-vaccines-can-prevent-treat-diseases-caused-e-coli-humans-poultry/
  • “ExPEC New Insights about E. coli” USDA-NIFA Fresh from the Field, 8/17/17. https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDANIFA/bulletins/1aff223
  • Study examines bacterial threat to chickens and humans, By Richard Harth, February 09, 2015. http://www.biodesign.asu.edu/news/study-examines-bacterial-threat-to-chickens-and-humans 
  • Bacterial fibers critical to human and avian infection. By Richard Harth, February 04, 2014. http://www.biodesign.asu.edu/news/bacterial-fibers-critical-to-human-and-avian-infection 
  • Are “superbug” dangers in chickens linked to 8 million at-risk women?” News. By Joe Caspermeyer, July 19th, 2012. http://www.biodesign.asu.edu/news/are-superbug-dangers-in-chicken-linked-to-8-million-at-risk-women 
  • Dealing with stress: new research highlights the survival skills of disease-causing E. coli. By Richard Harth, January 30, 2012. http://biodesign.asu.edu/news/dealing-with-stress-new-research-highlights-the-survival-skills-of-disease-causing-e-coli 
  • “USDA sponsored initiatives take on food safety concerns”. Arizona State University, News. By Caspermeyer, J. 2011. http://asunews.asu.edu/20110909_foodsafety
  • “New insights into a leading poultry disease and its risks to human health”. Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, News. By Caspermeyer, J. 2009. http://www.biodesign.org/news/new-insights-into-a-leading-poultry-disease-and-its-risks-to-human-health 
  • “Poultry Vaccines May also Improve Human Health”. USDA, CSREES, NewsRoom. By Kish, S. 2008. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/impact/2008/nri/pdf/poultry_vaccine.pdf 
  • “Solving an avian scourge could also provide benefits to human health”. Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, News. By Caspermeyer, J. 2008. http://biodesign.asu.edu/news/solving-an-avian-scourge-could-also-provide-benefits-to-human-health Community Presentation Mellata, M. 2012. Food-Safety Research: Salmonella and E. coli in chicken products. Presented to the “Spirit of the Senses membership group”: Biodesign Institute, ASU, July 16th.


  1. Mellata, M. Recombinant Bacterium Comprising a Toxin/Antitoxin System as a Vaccine Vector.” U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/417,046 and No 61/417,030, filed 11/24/2010, PCT/US2011/061896, filed 11/24/2011. US 9,198,950 B2 (granted 12/01/15)
  2. Curtiss, R. III, M. Mellata, B. Zekarias, Z. Shi, C. Branger, and K. Roland. Recombinant bacterium capable of eliciting an immune response against enteric pathogens. Salmonella vaccine against bacterial enteric pathogens. U.S. Patent No. 8,465,755B2 filled 10/06/08 (granted 06/18/13).