My laboratory focuses on the pathogenesis of acute respiratory pathogens and the host response to infection in the respiratory tract, including protective mechanisms elicited by vaccines. Our work centers around infection of animals by inhalation of the pathogen in a true aerosol and not via intranasal or intratracheal inoculation, and to study and model the physiological response of the host using radiotelemetry. Francisella tularensis is a gram-negative bacterium that causes severe morbidity and mortality in humans when inhaled. In the rabbit model we are evaluating potential vaccine candidates and striving to understand the immunological mechanisms responsible for protection. We are also working to understand the severe disease caused by Francisella tularensis in the rabbit model and how the host immune response contributes to that disease.
We also work on avian influenza viruses, to understand the inhalation aspects of the severe disease caused by these viruses and how they can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in ferret and monkey models. Finally, we are working with William Klimstra’s lab to develop animal models of the human disease caused by inhalation of encephalitic alphaviruses like the virus that causes eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). We use these models to evaluate potential vaccines and therapeutics, as well as better understand the pathogenesis of these diseases and the role of the host response in the outcome of infection.