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Previous Undergraduate Students


Marc Nault

Development of an effective diagnostic test for Chlamydiosis

Development of an effective diagnostic test for Chlamydiosis

Project Description: Research on chlamydial infections is often limited to association with human populations while the prevalence in animal and avian populations is underemphasized. Notably in livestock, Chlamydia can bring about clinical diseases such as: abortion, pneumonia, conjunctivitis, encephalomyelitis, polyarthritis, mastitis, enteritis and infertility. Therefore, the health burden exerts economic stress on the industry and poses many challenges in addressing the problem. One of the greatest challenges surrounding animal chlamydiosis is the development of a diagnostic tool that can be applied at a point of care (POC) setting. In light of these conflicts, I am conducting research to explore the use of Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (LAMP), hypothesizing that the development of an effective LAMP assay for livestock and avian chlamydiosis will lead to significant reductions in zoonotic disease as well as morbidity, mortality and the reproductive health of farm animals.



Dorothy Tovar 

The Effects of Vitamin E Isotypes on Infectious Asthma Pathogenesis


My research focuses on exploring the possible inhibitory effects of vitamin E to Chlamydia pneumoniae infectivity and the progression of asthmatic pathologies. C. pneumoniae is an effective pathogen of the human respiratory tract and a common causative agent of pneumonia. In the past our lab has isolated viable Chlamydia from bronchial fluid samples of pediatric patients who exhibit hyperresponsiveness to allergens and irritants, and are unresponsive to typical corticosteroid treatments, characteristic of non-eosinophilic inflammation pathways. We have also detected Chlamydia-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the serum samples from these children, strongly suggesting that an immunologically mediated response to early exposure to this pathogen can cause many of the observed asthma pathologies. With these findings we now seek to gain a better understanding of the specific immunologic pathways involved in asthma pathogenesis mediated by Chlamydia infection, and explore the possible inhibitory effects of vitamin E antioxidants to C. pneumoniae infectivity.  I will also investigate the effects of tocotrienol treatment on the proinflammatory arachidonic acid pathway.






Sneha Suresh 


C. trachomatis is the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide and spreads with high frequency through personal contact. An estimated 500 million people are at risk for trachoma in endemic areas and over 75% of those affected are children. A major obstacle in combating the disease has been a lack of understanding of the mechanisms involved in face to face transmission of the Chlamydia. Face seeking flies were recently proven to transmit C. trachomatis on their legs, and targeted control of these flies have resulted in significantly reduced cases of trachoma in endemic areas. We are trying to determine if synathropic flies play a greater role in trachoma transmission than purely a mechanical vector or if they have biological roles through ingestion. We therefore hypothesize that C. trachomatis can be ingested by Musca sorbens flies and therefore constitute an important reservoir for the bacteria, dramatically increasing the role of flies as a trachoma vector. This study is in its infancy and along with Kawinthi, we are working to test our hypothesis.




Kawinthi Fernando 


My role in this project is to generate Chlamydia stocks, determine IFU and work with our entomology collaborators to prepare flies for testing of C. trachomatis uptake. We will formulate artificial tears to mimic what the flies would ordinarily be attracted to and then use culture as well as molecular techniques to confirm uptake, internalization and survival of Chlamydia






Filiz Korkmaz 


I am working with Katir Patel on a new project to determine The Role of Hepoxilins and Neutrophils in Infectious Asthma. Currently, it is not known which host product induced by C. pneumoniae and possibly other infectious agents result in the massive neutrophil infiltration seen in the asthmatic lungs. We previously demonstrated that C. pneumoniae induces a cytokine response that supports, initiates and drives asthmatic pathology. Hepoxilins are biologically active metabolites which are released upon tissue damage and were recently identified as potent neutrophil chemoattractants in the intestinal mucosa. We therefore hypothesize that neutrophils migrate from the circulation into the C. pneumoniae-infected airway at least in part, because of the release of hepoxilins, resulting in airway inflammation and pathology. The goal of the current study is to utilize an animal model to test this hypothesis. If hepoxilin is released as a consequence of airway infection, regulation of airway hepoxilin might provide a novel therapeutic strategy for a significant percentage of asthmatics characterized by airway neutrophilia, are resistant to inhaled corticosteriod treatment and who are at increased risk for asthma mortality.




Sandra Smart


Chlamydia pneumoniae infection may be an important factor in the pathogenesis and clinical expression of asthma. Several biomarkers have been associated with asthma but potential causal mechanisms remain under discussion. My research is a continuation of work designed to fully assess the role that C. pneumoniae plays in asthma pathogenesis. The Webly lab has confirmed the presence of C. pnumoniae in the lungs and peripheral blood of pateints with severe asthma. We have also confirmed that C. pneumoniae-specific IgE antibodies are found more frequently in the blood of moderate and severe asthmatics. My project is designed to further assess the utility of IgE and other disease associated molecules as biomarkers for severe asthmatics that would benefit from anti-Chlamydia antibiotic.