Research in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology is organized into three areas (Immunology, Microbial Interactions, and Virology), although many laboratories span these divisions. The Department is highly collaborative, with many faculty sharing multi-investigator grants and some graduate students being co-mentored by two faculty members.
Immunology research topics in our Department cover a broad range of areas that thematically deal with regulation of inflammation. Studies are ongoing assessing mechanisms that regulate the development and differentiation of pathogenic immune effectors driving autoimmunity and autoinflammation. In addition, work is being carried out focusing on molecules that regulate inflammation in response to microbial pathogens. Notably, it is becoming apparent that much overlap exists between inflammatory responses targeting self-antigens and pathogens, leading to much cross-pollination among the Immunology faculty. These basic studies also provide a strong foundation for translational and clinical based work developing immunotherapies for the treatment of autoimmunity, autoinflammation, and cancer. Together these efforts have led to a highly collaborative environment and cutting edge basic, translational, and clinical immunological investigation.
Research topics in our Department in the area of microbial interactions include molecular mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis, antimicrobial resistance, signal transduction, gene regulation, protein secretion, and interbacterial cooperation and competition. Organisms under investigation include Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile, Chlamydia trachomatis, Bacillus subtilis, Bordetella pertussis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Yersinia pestis, Klebsialla pneumoniae, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Burkholderia cepacia complex, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Histoplasma capsulatum, which cause a variety of respiratory, gastrointestinal, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Virology research in our Department is closely aligned with complementary programs in the Division of Infectious Diseases, the Department of Genetics, the Lineberger Cancer Center, the Center for Gene Therapy, the School of Public Health, and the Dental School. Virology in the Department has a strong emphasis on HIV, viral oncogenesis (Herpesviruses, HPV and HIV), emerging RNA viruses (Flavi, Corona, Alpha, and Orthomyxoviruses), and global health. The School of Medicine and the Department have established permanent research partnerships in Lilongwe, Malawi and Leon, Nicaragua, as well as other active collaborations in many parts of Asia, Latin America, and Africa.