Respiratory Infection and Host Defense

The research focus for the program in respiratory infection and host defense seeks to further the understanding of lung-pathogen interactions and immune-mediated defense in respiratory infectious disease. A broad spectrum of pathogens coupled  with an emphasis toward in vivo studies, provide opportunities to identify molecular targets for therapeutic strategies.


Particular emphasis is placed on the use of transgenic and gene-targeted ("knock-out") animal models to elucidate mechanisms of host defense or pathogenesis. Broad applications of molecular biology, as well as immunologic and histologic techniques are routinely utilized. 

Contract research services are available for in vitro and in vivo testing of Select Agent microbes, vaccines, and bioterror simulants. Recent examples include:

  • Select Agent vaccines and immune adjuvants
  • Elucidation of broad-spectrum host defense mechanisms
  • Animal models of high biocontainment pathogens such as SARS-CoV, RSV, and avian influenza
  • Mechanisms of toxin-induced disease
  • Transmission and aerosol infection models

Partnerships with industry seeking federal support are encouraged.

Current Research Interests:

  • Respiratory viruses leading to lung pathogenesis including respiratory syncytial virus, metapneumorvirus, hantavirus, influenza, and SARS Co-V 
  • Numerous bacterial pathogens including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Haemophilus, Yersinia pestis. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis
  • Fungal pathogen Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Generation of transgenic and gene-targeted animals
  • Models of infection-induced exacerbation of chronic conditions (asthma, COPD)

Experimental Capabilities:

  • Viral pathogen culture facility for large-scale (>1010 pathogens assay) viral production and purification
  • Viral and bacterial killing and clearance assays using standard titer assays, as well as PCR-based and immunofluorescence assays
  • High-resolution histopathology, morphometry, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry with epithelial cell markers for distinct lung cell populations
  • Gene expression arrays for both novel host response and viral gene analysis
  • Proteomics strategies for elucidating novel antiviral factors in the lung airway fluid
  • Full-scale immunologic capabilities, including five-color FACS