The Bomberger lab studies host-pathogen interactions, and more specifically, how each influences the other during an infection. Emerging evidence reveals that pathogens have the ability to modulate the host response to infection, while at the same time, respond to host defense by altering their virulence and antibiotic resistance. We examine the interaction between the opportunistic pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, respiratory viruses (like influenza, rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus) and the host airway epithelium as a model system to investigate the broader question of how the host impacts a pathogen in the context of an infection, and vice versa.
Most co-infection studies to date characterize an infection where the virus predisposes patients for a secondary bacterial infection, but scientists and clinicians now recognize that the synergism is not unidirectional (Tashiro et al. 1987). Hussell et al. suggested that simultaneous infections are the norm, not the exception, and that co-infection with multiple pathogens may alter the immune response compared to either pathogen alone (Hussell and Williams 2004). Surprisingly, given the abundance of literature documenting influenza and bacterial dual infections, including those infections involving P. aeruginosa, the mechanisms responsible for this viral-bacterial synergy in the lung remains poorly understood. Using live-cell imaging, cell biological, microbiological and immunological assays, we explore mechanisms by which respiratory pathogens synergize in the host to promote each other's colonization.