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Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
B.A. 2003 Rutgers University
Thesis Advisor: Gilla Kaplan, Ph.D.
Public Health Research Institute
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Infections of humans with pathogenic mycobacteria results in a variety of diseases of great severity. Despite modern chemotherapies, the agents that cause tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and leprosy (Mycobacterium leprae) are still infecting humans en masse and contribute to a significant percentage of the worldwide burden from infectious diseases. There are approximately 2 million deaths annually attributed to tuberculosis and over 1/3 of the world’s population is latently infected with M. tuberculosis. These individuals are at a 10% lifetime risk of developing the active disease and further propagating the infection in their communities. Drug-resistance in M. tuberculosis is increasing, rendering many of the first-line antibiotics ineffective in treating some patients. Leprosy, whilst not causing as many cases of disease as tuberculosis, is still a major health problem in many underdeveloped nations. It causes peripheral nerve damage and disfiguring deformities, and carries a negative social stigma in many cultures. Leprosy is difficult to treat and a variety of complications often arise during treatment. The success of these pathogens can be attributed in part to their abilities to evade and manipulate the host immune response to favor their propagation and persistence. In this work, we examine some of the mechanisms of host immune subversion that contribute to the success of these organisms during infection.