We study the innate and adaptive immune response to Salmonella and Chlamydia infection and are particularly interested in visualizing these responses in mucosal tissues.
Salmonella are a common source of food-borne infection and commonly cause local gastrointestinal disease in the US and other developed nations. However, in developing nations, Salmonella can also cause serious disseminated infections and effective vaccines are urgently needed. Salmonella serovar Typhi causes typhoid fever, which kills over 200,000 people every year, and is a particularly serious infection of young children. Salmonella serovar Typhimurium is one of several serovars that causes disseminated bacteremia in young children or people suffering from HIV or malaria. The immunology of these infections is poorly understood, limiting the potential for new vaccines for these diseases.
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One aim of our laboratory is to develop better immunological tools that allow detailed study of CD4 T cell and antibody responses to Salmonella. So far, we have generated the only Salmonella-specific TCR transgenic mouse and MHC class-II tetramers and these reagents allow us to identify Salmonella-specific immune cells as they respond to oral infection or vaccination. We continue to refine and develop new reagents to expand our understanding of immunity to Salmonella. We have recently expanded this approach to examining immune responses to vaginal infection with Chlamydia infection. This allows us to compare and contrast the immune response to two bacterial infections that differentially affect the intestinal and genital mucosa.