1. Synergistic effects of essential oils and antibiotics on overcoming antibiotic
resistance in Staphylococcus aureus.
Antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus, such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), are a major public health problem
throughout the United States. Previous studies in the
laboratory examined the colonization rate of S. aureus in
medical students at LECOM utilizing molecular, epidemiological, and microbiological
experiments. Ongoing studies, including Masters Thesis
projects, are determining if essential plant oils, such as cinnamon cassia oil, can overcome
antibiotic resistance in S. aureus isolates. Previous projects have examined the synergistic effect of
cinnamon cassia oil and erythromycin on erythromycin-resistant S. aureus, and current projects are examining the
synergistic effect of various oils, including oregano oil and red thyme oil, and oxacillin on
inhibiting growth of MRSA. These projects are in
collaboration with Dr. Nancy Carty at LECOM.
2. Frequency and Distribution of tick-borne diseases in Ixodes scapularis and Dermacentor variabilis ticks
found in Erie County, Pennsylvania
The major focus of this project is to determine the prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi and Babesia microti infection in Ixodes scapularis (black-legged) ticks, formerly known as Ixodes dammini (deer) ticks, and Dermacentor
variabilis (dog) ticks and the risk of infection in human populations. Ixodes scapularis
transmits both the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, and the parasite, B. microti, which causes human babesiosis. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the
United States, and our recent studies show that greater than 50% of ticks collected throughout Erie
County carry B. burgdorferi. The initial symptoms of Lyme disease include flu-like
symptoms and a bulls-eye rash, and chronic symptoms can involve the joints, heart, and brain. Babesiosis manifests as fever and chills with accompanying
fatigue and muscle pain. Because the parasite infects
red blood cells, anemia is often a complication of infection.
While babesiosis is not often associated with severe complications in specific populations,
such as the elderly and immunocompromised individuals, the infection can be serious and even fatal.
Completed and current studies are being conducted on
Presque Isle State Park to ascertain the prevalence of B.
burgdorferi- and B. microti-infected ticks with follow-up studies conducted in all of Erie County that
will include screening for the presence of B. burgdorferi
and B. microti, and other co-infections such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Rickettsia rickettsii.
These studies involve collaborations between the Laboratories of Human Pathogens and the
Erie County Department of Health.
3. Public Health Projects
Public Health projects in the laboratory have
examined primary care physician awareness and perception of Lyme disease in Erie County and,
separately, risk groups for contracting sexually transmitted infections. In addition, a Paul Ambrose Scholar-sponsored project in the
laboratory involves determining the impact of oral health care on academic performance in
4. Immunopathogenesis of Severe Malarial Anemia
Through collaborations with the Laboratories of
Tropical Diseases at the University of New Mexico, this project investigates mechanisms of immune
dysregulation during severe childhood malaria. Malaria
is an endemic disease in many tropical areas of the world and is estimated to cause 1-3 million
deaths every year, mainly in children less than five years of age. Human malaria is caused by four species of Plasmodium, of which P. falciparum accounts for the most severe clinical
manifestations, particularly severe anemia in children.
Malaria parasites infect red blood cells and digest hemoglobin, releasing free heme. Heme, however, is toxic to Plasmodium; therefore, the parasites polymerize free heme
into a compound called hemozoin. When monocytes ingest
hemozoin, this parasitic product has a detrimental impact on the immune response to malaria. Specific projects examine dysregulation of immune mediator
production elicited by phagocytosis of hemozoin by human mononuclear cells. In addition, the project examines the influence of host
single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in immunoregulatory genes on malaria disease outcomes. More information on the University of New Mexico-headed
investigations can be found at: http://hsc.unm.edu/som/medicine/id/tropical/publications.shtml.