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By Hilary Hagerman

A 23-year-old Ryerson grad has uncovered a medical puzzle.

Celine Roi, who graduated this past spring from Ryerson’s Occupational and Public Health program and now lives in Lafontaine, Ont., found a correlation between a specific food pathogen and food poisoning, which scientists had been unable to find in the past.

Her research, some of which was done as part of a research project during her final year in the Public Health program, will be published in the Canadian Medical Journal.

“I’m really happy that my research will be published,” said Roi. “I feel that this discovery can benefit lots of people in taking better actions to prevent this food-borne illness.”

Dr. Tim Sly, a professor of Public Health at Ryerson, agrees it’s a significant accomplishment.

“Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal is an essential step as it allows others to examine the source or the data, the methods, and conclusions. A first observation can raise some interest but in science it needs to be replicated several times by independent investigators before it becomes widely and generally accepted,” he says. “We are learning and understanding new aspects about food borne diseases every year, and every outbreak usually teaches us several things. I would certainly be pleased if Celine’s findings become verified and reproduced by others, because she is clearly applying what she learned in her public health program at Ryerson.”

Roi’s discovery links a specific food pathogen, Vibrio Parahaemolyticus, often found in seafood, to a heightened chance of illness, and more severe or longer illness, when combined with carbohydrates.

“Basically, my research means that if you are eating foods that have potential of containing the Vibrio parahaemolyticus pathogen [any seafood], you shouldn`t consume other foods high in carbohydrates in the same sitting,” Roi said, “If you do end up having a food illness, the symptoms will be highly more severe if any carbohydrates were consumed.”

Roi’s research is especially important because it gives people the chance to mitigate the pathogen.

“This pathogen can also be deadly to elderly, young children or any one that is immunocomprimised,” Roi said. “ Therefore, the people that are immunocomprimised can take proper actions to defend themselves.”

The research began as part of two courses in her last year at Ryerson, Research Project I and Research Project II, where she had to conduct research related to her Public Health program.

Roi was not able to finish the research project while at Ryerson, because the pathogen couldn’t be ordered. Because of this, she wrote a protocol about her research project while at Ryerson, and then decided to finish the research after graduating.

Roi did a laboratory experiment with the Vibrio Parahaemolyticus organism and fermented carbohydrates. She added the pathogen to two blood agar plates — one with fermented carbohydrates, and one without, and tracked the results.

“The plate with the fermented carbohydrate demonstrated that it had caused hemolysis to the hemoglobin [burst the red blood cells on the plate],” Roi said. “The one without the carbohydrates had no effects on the red blood cells.”

“Vibrio Parahaemolyticus is a known pathogen to cause bleeding in the gastrointestinal track of humans and give severe symptoms if carbohydrates are consumed at the same time because it gives the organism a perfect environment,” Roi said. “This means that your immune system would have to work a lot harder to defend against this bacteria if the carbohydrates were consumed.”

Roi also did case studies on victims that had already had food-borne illness, and saw that those with the most severe symptoms did eat foods high in carbohydrates in the same sitting, and were sick for up to ten days. Those that didn’t eat food high in carbohydrates were only sick for about 24 hours.

Although this is Roi’s first time having research published, she is no stranger to recognition. Roi received nine awards during her time at Ryerson.

Roi also praised the Occupational and Public Health program.

“The teachers were great and helpful, and I also had small classes,” she said. “I would encourage others to take this course because there`s a lot of career opportunities once you graduate and you have the opportunity to work in any area of environmental health.”

Now, after graduating, Roi is taking time to decide what she will embark on next.

“I am not sure at this point what I am going to do with my bachelors degree,” she said, “although I do know that I would like to do more research projects in the future. “

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