Our group is interested in studying bacterial-host interactions, with particular emphasis on the role of bacterial proteins that promote virulence. These proteins may be modifying host cellular pathways to aid replication, allow the pathogen to subvert the immune response or enabling persistence within the host and abiotic surfaces in a hospital setting.
We are actively characterising and comparing TIR-containing proteins from a select group of bacterial pathogens. The Toll/Interleukin-1 receptor (TIR) domain is a conserved intracellular domain present on TLR receptors, and is shared by the downstream adaptor molecules. TLRs recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and are essential for TLR signaling and innate immunity. Bacterial TIR effectors have been implicated in the virulence of Brucella spp., Salmonella spp. and uropathogenic E. coli highlighting their relevance in disease progression.
We also have an ongoing ERA-Net Pathogenomics/ANR project to characterise novel effector proteins exported into host cells by the intracellular pathogen Brucella and identify the cellular signalling pathways targeted during infection. This project is part of a larger consortium that aims at identifying unique pathways that may be used for innovative therapeutic approaches to control the intracellular pathogens Coxiella, Chlamydia and Brucella.
We are now starting a project to study Acinetobacter baumannii, an emerging nosocomial pathogen that can cause severe infections in compromised patients and is becoming a health problem worldwide. A. baumannii are highly resistant to antibiotics and are implicated in a variety of infections such as respiratory tract, bloodstream, urinary tract, skin and soft tissue and prosthetic devices. By characterising its interaction with human cells and identifying virulence determinants that can promote disease in susceptible hosts we hope to propose new strategies to combat A. baumannii that may be applicable to other multi-drug resistant Gram-negative nosocomials.