Research Project: Explorations in Bacterial Pathogenesis Prerequisite: Students should be proficient with sterile laboratory technique for microbiology and pipetting skills Description: Our laboratory studies two bacterial pathogens, Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera and Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague. Regarding V. cholerae our laboratory studies two transcription factors, ToxR and TcpP, that regulate virulence gene transcription and environmental conditions that affect virulence gene expression levels. Our goal is to determine the nature of environmental sensing by V. cholerae as it induces virulence gene expression in hopes of interfering with that pathway with customized therapeutics. Our studies with Y. pestis focus on the ability of this organism to introduce toxic “Yop” proteins into targeted host cells. In addition to contributing to cell adhesion and Yop delivery, the Y. pestis surface protein Ail confers resistance to human serum, an activity required for virulence. Current work is focused on the mechanism of Ail - mediated serum - resistance with the goal of designing therapeutics interfering with this activity.
Research Project: Isolation of bacteriophages that target and kill dental pathogens Prerequisite: Students should be able to follow proper aseptic technique and practice proper pipetting skills. Description: The objective of this research project is to discover and isolate bacteriophage that target and kill common dental pathogens, in particular, members of the Mutans Streptococci. The Mutans Streptococci consists of the primary organisms responsible for the initiation of dental caries, a dental disease that can result in tooth loss. Bacteriophage are viruses that specifically target and infect a bacterium, multiply, and eventually lead to lysis of the bacterium. Bacteriophage are the most abundant organisms in the world and can be found in any environment where the host bacterium grows. As antibiotic resistance in bacteria is on the rise, using the ability of bacteriophage to be specifically target and kill pathogenic bacteria has become an area of much interest. This research project will revolve around the discovery and characterization of bacteriophage specific to the Mutans Streptococci in saliva collected from volunteers using clinical strains of Mutans Streptococci.