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Molecular Epidemiology

Multiple members of IDEEL@UNC have worked on the molecular epidemiology of Pneumocystis jirovecii, an important cause of opportunistic pneumonia among immunocompromised hosts. This work has focused both on the study of mutations in the dihydropteroate synthase (dhps) gene and on the global molecular epidemiology of the pathogen. Recently, Dr. Meshnick has collaborated with the International HIV-associated Oportunistic Pneumonias Study, directed by our collaborator Dr. Laurence Huang at UCSF, to conduct molecular genotyping of dhps polymorphsism in isolates from around the globe.

With the recent publication of a draft genome for P. jirovecii, Dr. Juliano worked with Dr. Huang to develop a set of microsatellite markers for conducting transmission studies of the infection. Microsatellites are tandem repeats within the genome that evolve at a more rapid rate than chromosomal polymorphisms, allowing direct links of transmission events to potentially be discovered. In this vain, he worked on using this technique to genotype P. jirovecii from non-invasive samples, oropharyngeal washes. The use of non-invasive tests for transmission studies in critical as invasive bronchoscopy, the gold standard for diagnosis, would not be possible for these studies.