Current Research and Scholarly Interests
My research explores the genetic diversity of human-associated microbiota in health and disease, and the accompanying host transcriptional response. This work relies largely on the application of cultivation-independent methods. An overarching goal of this research is to illuminate stereotypic patterns of microbial community assembly that are associated with specific clinical syndromes. This includes: i) profiling the commensal microbiota in distinct anatomic sites of interest; ii) identifying uncultivated pathogens associated with cryptic infections; iii) enumerating fastidious and minority constituents of polymicrobial infections; and, iv) characterizing perturbations of mixed microbial communities that confer increased disease risk. To achieve these aims, we are using various broad-range molecular approaches, including highly-parallel and quantitative methods, to characterize spatial, temporal and dose-response associations of specific microbial groups with physiologic and pathologic host states. The methodologies I use include, among others, sequence analysis of rDNA clone libraries, real-time quantitative PCR, microbial rDNA-based microarrays, and human cDNA-based microarrays.
The current thrust of my research emphasizes microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity in association with cryptic cases of preterm delivery. We are fortunate to have an ongoing collaboration with the research group of Roberto Romero, MD, Chief, Perinatology Research Branch, NICHD, NIH to investigate - in a broad and comprehensive manner - patterns of microbial prevalence, diversity and abundance that are associated with preterm delivery and its adverse neonatal sequelae. We also seek to characterize, by means of genome-scale transcriptional profiling of the host response, gene expression patterns that are predictive of preterm delivery.