The Pediatric Infectious Diseases program will support and foster the research experience for the trainee. In addition to the research laboratories of members of the Division of Infectious Disease, the trainee will have access to mentors from a variety of other departments at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Early in their training, fellows are given the opportunity to explore different laboratories in order to identify appropriate mentors and, through them, worthwhile projects for research. Once a primary mentor has been identified, the fellow organizes his own specific research mentoring committee, including at least one faculty member not directly involved with ongoing research. Meeting with this committee at least twice a year, the fellow provides regular progress reports, which lead to immediate feedback on the direction of research. In addition, these mentoring committees aid the fellow by offering suggestions for other related experimental research techniques that may prove useful in the fellow’s project. In addition to mentored research projects, fellows have the opportunity to take classes in epidemiology, statistics and related subjects through the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.
Toni Darville, MD
Chief, Infectious Diseases
Professor of Pediatrics
My primary research focus is in area of the immunobiology of chlamydial infections. The primary goal of my research is to develop a vaccine to prevent disease due to Chlamydia trachomatis. We use a murine model to examine the immunopathogenesis of chlamydial genital tract disease.Using gene knockout and cytokine antibody mediated inhibition, we probe the role of innate and adaptive defense mechanisms in Chlamydia immunity and pathology. A current focus of my lab is to determine the immunological mechanisms for protection from disease in the absence of toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) signaling. We are also developing a translational research program to examine the role of TLR genetic polymorphisms in chlamydial disease pathogenesis. Ongoing collaborative projects include: examination of the role of chlamydial-induced host cell death in disease pathogenesis, the role of regulatory T cells and Th17 cells in chlamydial pathogenesis, mechanisms of cell attachment and uptake utilized by chlamydiae, and investigations of T cell homing mechanisms operative in the infected female genital tract.
Marian G. Michaels, MD, MPH
Michael D. Green, MD, MPH
Professor of Pediatrics and Surgery
I have two major foci to my research. The first of these areas is the study of infectious complications in children undergoing solid organ transplantation. I have been extremely interested in describing and understanding the timing and patterns of infections which develop in children undergoing these procedures in an effort to optimize their management and to develop potential preventive strategies against the development of these complications. I have had a particular interest in studying Epstein-Barr viral infections which can cause a wide range of clinical diseases in organ transplant recipients ranging from uncomplicated febrile illness to life-threatening post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease and lymphoma. These clinical studies have included efforts aimed at improving strategies for the diagnosis, management and prevention of EBV disease in this population. Recent work has focused on understanding the meaning and measurement of the EBV viral load in the peripheral blood and the utility of this load to predict and follow the course of EBV-related clinical disease. The second major focus to my research has been in the area of antimicrobial resistance. My laboratory has been interested in understanding the epidemiology and mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance in children in both the hospital and ambulatory setting. This work employs classical microbiologic methods to identify, quantify and describe the prevalence of antibiotic resistance and also uses molecular techniques to determine the mechanisms of resistance and the molecular epidemiology and patterns of spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Current areas of active interest include macrolide resistance in Group A streptococci, extended-spectrum beta-lactamase production in Enterobacter cloacae and the impact of long-term trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole prophylaxis on the development of antibiotic resistance in children with a history of urinary tract infection.
Judith M. Martin, MD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
My research interests are Group A streptococcal infections and rheumatic fever. I recently completed a five-year longitudinal study of strep infections in school-aged children and study of the last 10 years’ experience with rheumatic fever here at Children’s Hospital. I am currently investigating ways to distinguish children who are Group A streptococcal carriers from children who have acute streptococcal pharynigitis
Philana Ling Lin, MD, MSC
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
My research focuses on the host immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the non-human primate model. Using this model, active disease and latent infection can be easily established in a way that mimics the human host. Specifically, we are interested in immunologic factors that control form and function of lung granulomas, the histopathologic hallmark of tuberculosis. We are working to understand what cellular and cytokine functions may be important in maintaining control of latent infection and, therefore, prevention of reactivation disease. My other interest in research includes the changing epidemiology of invasive pneumococcal disease in pediatric immune compromised patients.
Andrew Nowalk, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Infectious Diseases
My research interests are focused on the mechanisms of bacterial pathogenesis in Lyme disease. I have a long interest in gram negative bacterial pathogenesis derived during my graduate work on free iron transporters in gram negative pathogens. My current work with Lyme disease, caused by the spirochetal pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi, uses cutting-edge proteomic techniques to discover novel vaccine and serodiagnostic markers which may represent future approaches for improved testing and treatment. Springing from these studies is my current focus on the role of environmentally-regulated surface proteins in tissue tropism and disease manifestations during Borrelia infection. I am hoping to expand the use of these proteomic techniques to the study of other pediatric bacterial pathogens such as group A streptococcus. My clinical research interests center around the challenge of managing children with chronic intestinal insufficiency. One of the greatest difficulties in their management is frequent central venous catheter infection. I am interested both in therapeutic approaches to these catheter-associated infections (antibiotic lock, probiotics, etc.) as well the molecular epidemiology of gram negative bacterial infections in these patients
Catherine O’Connell, PhD
I am interested in developing a better understanding of chlamydial pathogenesis using the techniques of molecular biology to directly examine the mechanisms of gene expression and regulation in chlamydiae. Despite being the leading cause of bacterial STDs in the United States and the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide, understanding of the molecular biology and virulence mechanisms of this important pathogen has been limited by a lack of techniques for genetic analysis. My long-range goals are to investigate the pathogenic mechanisms of Chlamydia trachomatis by examining how this obligate intracellular pathogen regulates its unusual dimorphic life cycle, and by identifying novel virulence genes. We have recently demonstrated that the resident “cryptic” plasmid carried by most strains is involved in the regulation of several important chlamydial virulence and biosynthetic pathways and understanding the underlying mechanisms by which this occurs is the primary focus of my current research.
My major research areas are several-fold. First I have long been involved in the study of infections in immunocompromised hosts and their prevention. This work has particularly focused on children who have undergone transplantation. I have been most actively involved in diseases caused by herpesviruses in particular cytomegalovirus, and infections specific to the thoracic organ transplant population. Past work also was related to the types of infections that could occur from cross species transplantation. More recent work includes clinical studies looking at fungal infections; community acquired respiratory infections; preventive strategies for influenza; and vaccinations in the immunocompromised host. My work with cytomegalovirus also led to my other major research area which is congenital cytomegalovirus. In particular my work is looking at better diagnostic methods and understanding the pathogenesis of disease in this group of infants. I am actively involved in longitudinal multicenter natural history studies and treatment trials.