Our research interests focus on several bacterial and vector-borne diseases.
Lyme Disease is the most prevalent arthropod-borne infectious disease in the US. Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, is transmitted to humans (and to other mammals) by the bite of infected Ixodes scapularis ticks. This spirochetal pathogen rapidly alters its gene expression depending on the feeding status of the ticks and upon transmission to mammalian hosts. Our specific research interests include the following:
- Regulation of gene expression in B. burgdorferi.
- Host-pathogen interactions of B. burgdorferi leading to Lyme disease.
- Metabolic control of virulence potential of B. burgdorferi in mammals/ticks.
- Effects of specific inhibitors of borrelial metabolism in ticks/mammals
Q fever is caused by Coxiella burnetii - an intracellular pathogen. Acute Q fever is a self-limiting flu-like illness and is readily amenable to treatment with antibiotics. Chronic Q fever, on the other hand, is not easily treated with antibiotics and results in endocarditis, hepatitis and pneumonia. C. burnetii resides and replicates within the phagolysosomal vacuoles of macrophages and hence has a unique niche protected from the neutralizing effects of humoral immune response. Our specific research interests include the following:
- Modification of C. burnetii antigens to enhance protective T cell response.
- Generate deletion mutants for study intracellular trafficking kinetics.
- Effects of C. burnetii on biogenesis/functions of sub-cellular compartments.
Antibiotic resistance mechanisms in Gram-ve bacteria. There is a major need to identify novel methods to control infections with Gram-ve bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. "Genomes to Phenomes" pathway analyses are predicted to provide insights into molecular signatures that contribute to resistance mechanisms. Strategies to modulate metabolic and known virulence-associated factors of antibiotics-resistant strains of bacteria are being evaluated to alter the course of infection and increase susceptibility to conventional antimicrobial therapies.
Undergraduate Research Training Program on Biology of Spirochetes and Vector-borne Infectious Diseases
The major goal of this program is to provide intensive hands-on training in experimental methods addressing questions in areas of biology of spirochetes and in other vector-borne infections. The students will perform research on select topics depending on the duration of their undergraduate studies at UTSA. They will learn routine methods such as DNA cloning, isolation of DNA and restriction enzyme analysis, expression and purification of recombinant proteins, generation of plasmid constructs for targeted deletion of genes in bacteria, PCR and quantitative PCR, immunoblot analysis, in vitro and in vivo phenotypic analysis of bacterial strains. The students are trained on critical analysis of experimental data as well as preparing their experimental data for oral and poster presentations. Competitive fellowships are available for interested students.