A new initiative in the lab

 “If a child in its first thousand days of life does not have adequate nutrition,
the damage is irreversible.  
This isn’t one of those rare diseases that we don’t have the solution for.  
We know how to fix hunger.”   

– Josette Sheeran

conversations on kilimanjaro

On a recent trip to Africa I spent a lot of time talking to our trek leaders who were charged with taking us up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.  On the seven day hike, I spent hours and hours talking with them about legends and fables, the history of the people and, more often then not, our conversation turned to medicine. I remember when our trek leader, Charles, heard I studied infectious disease and also the microbiome, he turned to me and said, “You are a PhD, come, please come back here after you get to the top of Kili. Come help us cure these illnesses that keep taking away our children.”

Disease & HUNGER in africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has 24% of the global disease burden, yet only 3% of the world’s health-care workers.  Every minute eight children under the age of five die due to what should be preventable diseases such as gastroenteritis/diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria and HIV/AIDS.  Contributing to the high mortality in children under five years of age is malnutrition.  Despite much research and many vaccination efforts, the efficacy of vaccines in children of under-developed countries is remarkably low.

microbiome, malnutrition & vaccines

I am excited to announce a new initiative in the lab geared towards understanding why vaccines may not be effective in this population and discovering potential biotherapeutic cures that may be hidden within the microbiome.  We will accomplish this by examining how malnutrition may re-shape the microbiome, how this altered microbiome may re-shape immunity to oral vaccinations using models of Rotavirus and Shigella, and lastly identify populations of microbiota that may be used as an adjuvant to help boost responses to the oral vaccinations.