Outside the laboratory, Anthony Azenabor is outgoing and talkative, an extrovert who laughs heartily at his own jokes.
But engrossed in his research, Azenabor is a shrewd and serious investigator who coaxes rogue bacteria to give up deadly secrets of how they cause several human illnesses.
Educated in Nigeria and Great Britain, Azenabor landed a fellowship sponsored by the World Health Organization soon after completing his doctorate on the bacteria Chlamydia. He was one of only two chosen worldwide.
Now an associate professor of health sciences at UW-Milwaukee, he has identified how two different kinds of Chlamydia can cause both coronary artery disease and miscarriages.
Solving one mystery gave him clues that he needed to figure out the other.
By focusing on the immune system mechanisms in Chlamydia infections, Azenabor has identified an important link in seemingly unrelated health problems.
The result could be new treatments and prevention strategies for both heart disease and infertility.
The first mystery
Chlamydia pneumoniae is a microbe that normally causes pneumonia and bronchitis, but it has long been associated with atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease also called hardening of the arteries.
It was a frightening prospect, says Azenabor, that atherosclerosis could come from a bacterial infection. He decided to look for an explanation.
Chlamydiae are unusual, says the Nigerian-born scientist, because, unlike most other bacteria, they use the same form of cholesterol for metabolism that human cells use. Chlamydiae also are intracellular pathogens, meaning that they can only grow and reproduce inside of another cell.
But these bacteria have another peculiar ability.
Normally, when a pathogen invades human tissue, the immune response unleashes killer cells called macrophages, which stretch to engulf the attacker and destroy it with toxin-
|Contact: Anthony Azenabor|
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee