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Research in my laboratory is an exploration of how an opportunistic environmental bacterium such as Mycobacterium avium ssp. aviu (M. avium) is able to cause disease in humans—disseminated infections in end-strage HIV/AIDS patients and tuberculosis-like disease in the lungs of healthy individuals.
In many ways, M. avium behaves like M. tuberculosis, the cause of human tuberculosis (TB), making study of M. avium relevant to the search for useful preventive medicines against TB (one-third of the world population currently infected, and 3 million deaths a year worldwide).
M. avium is also a good model in which to study general bacterial and host pathways involved during the infection process of intracellular pathogens. These studies could be extended to understanding disease caused by M. avium spp. paratuberculosis, the causative agent of Johne’s disease (paratuberculosis) in cattle and its potential role in human Crohn’s disease. Thus, this research has wide implications for both basic and applied aspects of host-pathogen interaction and prevention of disease.
Our research involves five exciting and continuously developing disciplines of science—Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Proteomics, and Cell Biology. It focuses on dissecting and studying specific host (cytokines, cell signaling pathways, apoptosis) and M. avium factors (glycopeptidolipids, colonial morphology, serovar type) involved in the M. avium-macrophage interaction process which ultimately leads to either bacterial disease or successful clearance of the pathogen.
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