Understanding how Salmonella establishes infection in humans
Salmonellabacteria are responsible for two diseases that significantly impact human health: typhoid fever and salmonellosis. While S. typhi, responsible for typhoid fever, has been largely eradicated in developed countries, the World Health Organization's estimate of the number of infections is 17 million individuals worldwide annually, with a minimum death toll of 600,000. Salmonella species responsible for gastric salmonellosis in humans cause annual infection rates that are high in many countries, with fatality rates among the very young and immunocompromised as high as 25% of infected persons in some areas of the world.
Many Salmonella species are resistant to antibiotics and a single strain is often resistant to multiple drugs, making treatment with antibiotics very challenging. My research program focuses on revealing the mechanisms by which Salmonella invades host cells in order to understand the body's immunological response and help to isolate effective vaccines. In light of our dwindling supply of effective antibiotics, vaccine development against Salmonella is an important approach to improving human health.
Instead of hearing, smelling or seeing, bacteria use chemical cues to sense where they are in the environment and to respond to environmental changes. These chemical messages signal to the bacterium to modify various aspects of their cellular makeup in order to enhance their ability to survive or to cause infection. In my lab at Queen’s University we study the signaling process that receives and responds to these messages using a wide variety of molecular and cellular microbiology techniques including proteomics, fluorescent imaging, genetic engineering and animal modeling. Our research leads to a better understanding of the interactions between the bacterium and the host with the goal of finding new ways to prevent infection.