MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Often the key to any victory is to fully understand your opponent. This is especially true when that opponent is a significant foodborne bacterial pathogen such as E. coli O157:H7.
Philip Hardwidge, associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, is studying how pathogens such as E. coli use proteins to block a host's innate immune system. This system is the body's first defense against infection, often presented in the body's mucosal surfaces such as those found in the intestine.
"In terms of infectious disease, this inhibition of the human innate immune response is absolutely critical for the bacteria's ability to cause an infection," said Hardwidge, who works in the diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department. "If we can identify choke points in the interaction between the bacterium and the host, we may be able to inhibit the bacterium and prevent its survival in an infected human being."
Hardwidge's lab received a multiyear grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore a protein expressed by pathogenic E. coli known as NleH1, which inhibits an important cellular signaling pathway called IKK/NF-B, or I-Kappa-Kinase/N-F-Kappa-B.
"This protein is one example of an injected bacterial protein that is able to block the innate immune system," Hardwidge said. "This protein has kind of an unusual mechanism that had not been seen in other bacterial or viral pathogens, so we're interested in understanding more about how this protein really works and whether it represents a good target for future therapeutics.
The exploration of these host-pathogen interactions requires the lab to use multidisciplinary approaches, including using animal models and advanced technologies such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction, or PCR.
"One of beauties of QPCR, or quantitative PCR, is that it gives a really reliable and easily to def
|Contact: Philip Hardwidge|
Kansas State University