Chiung-Yu Hung, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Research
Phone: (210) 458-7018
Areas of Specialization
» Flow cytometry
» Host-pathogen interaction
» Medical mycology
» Vaccine development against microbial infections
Ph.D. in Biological Sciences; University of Texas at Austin
B.S. in Biology; National Taiwan Normal University
Dr. Hung's research is focused on development of a vaccine against coccidioidomycosis (a.k.a., Valley fever) and studies of fungal virulence mechanisms. Coccidioides posadasii and Coccidioides immitis are etiological agents of Valley fever, a potentially life-threatening respiratory mycosis endemic to the southwestern United States and arid regions of Mexico, Central and South America. In the endemic area, coccidioidomycosis is responsible for nearly one-third of patients presenting with lower respiratory tract symptoms. Annually, it is estimated that 150,000 patient contrast with coccidioidomycosis in U.S. The health impact and cost of long-term antifungal therapy of patients who contract this infection support the urgent need for a vaccine. The feasibility of generating a vaccine against coccidioidomycosis is supported by clinical observations that symptomatic human infection with Coccidioides results in lifelong immunity against recurrent coccidioidal disease.
Host defenses mounted in response to invasion by dimorphic fungi are largely Th1 driven and disease exacerbation is a consequence of an imbalance between type 2 immunity and/or IL-10 and Th1 responses. The lab has genetically engineered a live, attenuated vaccine (∆T) strain to explore the nature of vaccine immunity in mice during the initial 2-week period after intranasal challenge with a potentially lethal dose of Coccidioides spores. The lab has shown that Th17 cells are essential for vaccine-induced protection against pulmonary coccidioidomycosis. Studies of the signal pathways required for T-cell immunity revealed that induction of MyD88- and Card9-mediated Th17 and Th1 responses are essential for vaccine immunity to Coccidioides infection.
The lab's data supports the concept that activation of Th17 and Th1 cells can enhance recruitment of phagocytes to alveoli and promote early reduction of fungal burden while dampening inflammatory pathology at infection sites. In spite of the apparent ability of a live, attenuated vaccine to elicit and maintain long-term T cell memory to Coccidioides infection, it may not be safe for individuals with underlying conditions compromising their cell-mediated immune systems. Generation of a recombinant protein subunit vaccine is proposed as an alternative strategy to design a clinically acceptable reagent. Currently, the lab is focused on the creation of a subunit vaccine targeted to optimize CD4 T-cell responses. This novel vaccine can be widely applied to the general public at risk of Coccidioides infection.
Click here for a list of publications.