Our research program focuses on three general areas—1) basic biology of tuberculosis (TB) pathogenesis; 2) genetics of drug resistance and molecular epidemiology of drug-resistant infections; and 3) infectious diseases of urban slums in developing countries. Tuberculosis pathogenesis research currently focuses on delineating the mechanism of latency and reactivation from latency. In particular, the laboratory has been studying a family of operons called mce (mce1-4) that resemble ABC transporters, possibly involved in lipid transport across the cell wall of M. tuberculosis. Mutants disrupted in the operon are studied for their phenotype in mouse models. More recently, our pathogenesis studies in mice have transitioned into exploring host factors associated with latency and reactivation in human populations in Brazil, a TB-endemic country. These include the development and validation of new biomarker-based tests to diagnose pediatric TB and predict progression from latent infection to active disease in children and adults. Our second basic research area involves characterizing the genetics of drug resistance in Gram negative bacterial (GNB) pathogens and molecular basis of dissemination of pandemic lineages of extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli. We have also launched a long-term project to identify every possible drug resistance genes in saprophytes in food that could potentially enter pathogens. Recognized drug resistance genes are also being characterized from GNB pathogens obtained from clinical sources domestically as well as abroad. The laboratory has field sites in Brazil, India, and Bangladesh, where we conduct studies to assess burden of infectious diseases that are predominant in urban slum settlements, including leptospirosis, rheumatic heart disease, TB, and drug-resistant GNB infections. Thus, our research program emphasizes linking basic biology research with translational research to address infectious diseases of global importance.
In the News
UC Berkeley researchers will receive $5.8 million over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to develop tools to quickly spot and identify drug-resistant pathogens.
The Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health has awarded $4 million to UC Berkeley to train and educate researchers, educators and professionals who can tackle global health challenges specific to slum dwellings. UPDATE: Project renewed for an additional 5 years. See the project website.