Research

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  • Microbiology Research

    The following is a summary of the research areas that our faculty focus on.

    Dr. Brian Akerley's research

    Research in the Akerley lab focuses on the biology and pathogenicity of Haemophilus influenzae, a bacterium that normally colonizes the human nasopharynx asymptomatically yet frequently causes disease by spreading to other sites in the body. Depending on a complex interplay between the host and the infectious strain, H. influenzae invades the bloodstream, spreads to the middle ear, or infects the lungs. The transition between asymptomatic colonization and disease involves a change in the balance between bacterial virulence mechanisms and host defenses. Moreover, our recent evidence indicates that these interactions are markedly influenced by co-infecting pathogens, such as the influenza A virus. Understanding how this balance is maintained and disrupted will require a comprehensive understanding of H. influenzae biology and its interactions with the immune response, host metabolism, normal flora, and co-infecting pathogens.  

    Dr. Eva Bengten's research

    Dr Bengten’s research is focused on comparative immunology, specifically cellular and molecular aspects of antiviral immune responses in teleosts and the roles of immunoglobulin binding receptors in immune regulation.

    Dr. V. Gregory Chinchar's research

    Dr. Chinchar is interested in ranaviruses and herpesviruses that infect cold-blooded vertebrates and host immune responses targeted against those agents. His research is focused on understanding ranavirus replication mechanisms, virus-encoded virulence genes, and innate and acquired components of anti-viral immunity.

    Dr. Mary Marquart's research

    My laboratory research focuses on ocular bacterial infections, particularly those caused by streptococcus pneumoniae. Two of the pneumococcal virulence factors in which we are interested are the outer polysaccharide capsule and the cholesterol-dependent cytolysin, pneumolysin. Both the capsule and pneumolysin have been previously determined to be important in the pathogenesis of a variety of the classically known pneumococcal diseases such as pneumonia. We have recently determined that the capsule is important for clinical disease severity and bacterial replication in S. pneumoniae endophthalmitis, but is unimportant for S. pneumoniae keratitis. Pneumolysin, which is a virulence factor for both diseases, is being investigated at the molecular level to determine its specific interaction with host ocular tissues. These studies are aimed to identify potential targets for alternative or adjunct therapies for pneumococcal eye infections.

    Dr. Larry McDaniel's research

    My laboratory has four major interests. The first is the role of pneumococcal proteins in the ability of Streptococcus pneumoniae to cause disease. The second is the host immune response against bacterial antigens. The third is the pathogenesis and treatment of Psedomonas aeruginosa in acute otis externa. The fourth is serum survival and pathogenesis of Acinetobacter baumannii.

    Dr. John Christopher Meade's research

    My laboratory has four major interests. The first is the role of pneumococcal proteins in the ability of Streptococcus pneumoniae to cause disease. The second is the host immune response against bacterial antigens. The third is the pathogenesis and treatment of Psedomonas aeruginosa in acute otis externa. The fourth is serum survival and pathogenesis of Acinetobacter baumannii.

    Dr. Richard O'Callaghan's research

    This laboratory focuses on bacterial infections of the eye, especially those caused by Staphylococcus. Studies include very basic analysis of the pathogenic mechanisms by which the bacteria damage the eye. Past studies have determined that alpha-toxin, a secreted cytolytic protein, is extremely toxic to the cornea. More recently, inhibitors of alpha-toxin have been identified and efforts are now underway to create even more potent inhibitors using new compounds or mixtures of established inhibitors. Also, a considerable effort is being devoted to the characterization of “new” toxin that we have only recently discovered.

    Research is also dedicated to the development of new antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory medications. Several commonly used antibiotics for ocular therapy were developed here in conjunction with a major ocular drug company and recently, two new drugs have been released. A great deal of attention is being devoted to developing antibiotic formulations capable of treating highly drug resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA) infections as well as infections caused by resistant strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the most frequent cause of contact lens associated infections.

    Dr. D. Ashley Robinson's research

    Our research is focused on identifying, characterizing, and ultimately understanding the processes that give rise to biological diversity in some of the most clinically-problematic bacteria. We combine the use of genetic and genomic tools with epidemiological and evolutionary concepts to reveal the origin and natural history of these bacteria. This research can guide the development of diagnostics and public health surveillance efforts, and it can lead to novel strategies for infection control and prevention. We are presently focused on studies of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

    Dr. Stephen Stray's research

    My laboratory has two major interests: evolution and intracellular assembly of viruses, using influenza virus as a model. We are also interested in understanding how changing structural and biophysical properties of HA and NA epitopes may confer selective advantage in the presence of antibodies. I study these interactions both in tissue culture and using purified proteins in vitro. These interactions between may provide an important target for antiviral drugs.”

    Dr. Ritesh Tandon's Research

    The research in Dr. Tandon's laboratory currently focuses on three different aspects of human cytomegalovirus (CMV) maturation. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a herpesvirus that can act as a severe human pathogen in AIDS patients, organ transplant recipients and other immunocompromised individuals. At present, there are no vaccines or effective drugs to treat or contain CMV infection. The development of potential antivirals requires detailed knowledge of the molecular events involved in virus replication. A good antiviral target is the virus assembly and maturation process, a complex series of events that results in the production of infectious virus particles within infected host cells. We have reported critical viral and host factors that are important for HCMV maturation. Current research is aimed towards providing a detailed understanding of CMV maturation events that will impact the development of novel therapeutics to counter CMV infection with a possible conserved theme across all herpesviruses.

    Dr. Melanie Wilson's research

    Dr. Wilson's research interest is in the evolution of the immune system, specifically the structure and function of B and T cell antigen receptors, Fc-receptors, antigen receptor signaling and their gene regulation.