Christina Faherty, Ph.D.
Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center, Mass General Research Institute
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School
|PhD Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences 2009|
The main focus of the laboratory centers on enhancing our understanding of gastrointestinal bacterial pathogens, particularly the Shigella species.
Shigella causes a significant global health burden each year by causing millions of infections predominantly in children under the age of five years in developing countries.
Children subjected to recurrent diarrhea in developing countries often exhibit environmental enteropathy, a condition defined by severe damage to the gastrointestinal tract that typically results in delayed growth and development.
There is still no effective vaccine against Shigella, antibiotic resistance is complicating disease treatment, and foodborne infections in industrialized nations are on the rise.
While many aspects of Shigella colonic cell invasion and intracellular survival are known, crucial gaps in knowledge remain that have hindered successful vaccine development.
In order to cause infection in the colon, Shigella must transit a majority of the gastrointestinal tract and survive detrimental conditions such as a low pH in the stomach and bile in the small intestine.
Our overall research goal is to understand how Shigella alters gene expression during host transit and to determine how the bacteria recognize the colonic environment to initiate infection.
By focusing on these processes, we will understand the early events in Shigella infection and identify unique virulence factors to target for vaccine development. Our work has enabled us expand the Shigella infection paradigm and demonstrate the importance of utilizing in vivo stimuli to mimic host transit in our research.
In all, we have a better understanding ofShigella pathogenesis that could finally translate to successful vaccine candidates and improve the health of millions of people around the globe.