Interrupting Pneumococcal Transmission

This seminar was delivered by Dr Jeff Weiser, Jan T. Vilcek Professor of Molecular Pathogenesis; Chair, Department of Microbiology, New York University School of Medicine, USA

A key step in the life cycle of pathogens is transmission from one host to another. In general, this process involves colonization of host surfaces, exit (“shedding”), and acquisition and establishment of the organism by a new, susceptible host. An example of this paradigm is the Gram-positive bacterial pathogen Streptococcus pneumoniae (Spn), which colonizes the mucosal surfaces of the human nasopharynx and is shed in nasal and oral secretions.

Weiser Lab Research

The Weiser lab investigates the molecular basis of host-pathogen interaction for agents that reside in and infect the human respiratory tract. Most studies focus on the pathogenesis of Streptococcus pneumoniae because of its prominence as a cause of acute respiratory tract infection. Other pathogens under investigation in the laboratory have included Haemophilus influenzae, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Influenza A. Many projects focus on colonization of the mucosal surface of the upper airway, the initial step in the disease process. Both host and bacterial factors affecting colonization are under investigation. In general these studies utilize bacterial genetics to examine effects of specific microbial genes together with mouse models of colonization that allow for the use of genetically-modified hosts. Although pneumococcal disease and colonization have been extensively studied in animal models, there is still little known about transmission of this common pathogen. This presentation will summarize our efforts to understand the biology of pneumococcal transmission with a view towards interrupting this key step in the infectious process.