Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases

Research

The Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, under the direction of Toni Darville, MD, includes a diverse team of research faculty, staff, and students. Basic, clinical, and translational studies are underway to understand the mechanisms of disease development with the ultimate goal of developing new diagnostics and vaccines for children.

The research lab of Toni Darville, MD, has studied the pathogenesis of genital tract disease due to Chlamydia trachomatis for over 20 years. Her research team has discovered immune signaling pathways active in disease development, and continues to pursue studies that explore host-pathogen interactions responsible for induction of disease.

Dr. Darville’s research team is also currently working to develop a vaccine to prevent chlamydial infection, and is pursuing genetic and transcriptional microarray studies to determine biomarkers of disease risk and immune pathways that lead to protection from chlamydial infection and disease. Read more >>

The research of Thomas Belhorn, MD, PhD, focuses on HIV quality improvement and medical education. HIV infection continues in epidemic proportions worldwide. However, significant advances in the reduction of perinatal transmission (passed to the baby while in the mother’s womb or during labor and delivery) and treatment of HIV disease continue to alter and mold standards of HIV medical management in the United States. Physicians caring for HIV-infected children must strive for optimal medical management of the infection to assure the best quality of life possible for each child.

The Pediatric and Adolescent HIV Program maintains Ryan White funding and is a member of the UNC Center for AIDS Research. Our participation in these groups enhances our ability to provide quality care for our patients and allows the children in our care the opportunity to participate in clinical trials and access to state-of-the-art HIV therapy.

The primary research focus of Zachary Willis, MD, MPH relates to antibiotic stewardship and prevention of antibiotic resistance. As director of the pediatric antimicrobial stewardship program, he works with colleagues in Adult Infectious Diseases and the Department of Pharmacy to optimize antibiotic use and prevent antibiotic resistance at UNC Children’s. He also conducts research aimed at preventing overuse of antibiotics in pediatric outpatient settings.

Our clinical fellow, Peyton Thompson, MD, studies mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus. In her time as a fellow, Dr. Thompson has been able to pursue her Master of Science in Clinical Research (MSCR) at the Gillings Global School of Public Health and to lead a study of a novel program to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HBV in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Education

Dr. Darville has received many education awards from medical students and resident physicians and is an active lecturer for continuing medical education courses related to pediatric infectious diseases. She regularly participates in the mentorship of PhD students, MD-PhD students and post-doctoral fellows. She served as a Pediatric Infectious Diseases Fellowship Director at two previous academic institutions, and has contributed to the mentorship of ten Pediatric ID fellows, six of whom have appointments at US academic institutions and four of whom are active in research with extramural grant support. Dr. Darville is also the Co-Director of UNC’s MD-PhD training program, which oversees the education of 79 trainees.

Dr. Belhorn serves as the Director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases fellowship program. He is also the co-director and major lecturer in the immunology course for first-year medical school students and gives lectures on infectious disease topics throughout the medical school curriculum. He has received several teaching awards at UNC, was appointed to the Academy of Educators of the UNC School of Medicine in 2010, and was elected by students as a faculty recipient in the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society in 2014 in part due to efforts in education. Dr. Belhorn gives frequent lectures on infectious disease topics to audiences ranging from fellow physicians to the general public.

Dr. Willis has a long standing interest in medical education and frequently works in clinical practice with medical students and pediatric residents. In his role as Director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, he teaches clinicians at all levels about antibiotics and the consequences of their overuse.