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MCW Researcher to Study Key Bacterial Toxin

July 19, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a five year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that is intrinsically resistant to antimicrobials, and that is difficult to treat.

Dara Frank, PhD, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and director of MCW’s Center for Infectious Disease Research, is the primary investigator of the grant. Jimmy Feix, PhD, professor of biophysics, is a co-investigator.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa has been linked to burn victims, immunocompromised patients, and individuals with cystic fibrosis. Colonization of organs such as the lungs or spread of the bacteria to the bloodstream, can result in a fatal infection. Toxins expressed by the bacteria make it particularly pathogenic.

In this study, Dr. Frank will study a toxin expressed by Pseudomonas aeruginosa called ExoU, which is correlated with poor outcomes in human infection. By studying ExoU and the system in which it is expressed, new insights about the pathogenic nature of the bacteria will be discovered, with the ultimate goal being to provide unique targets and biological tools to limit that pathogenicity—and improve outcomes in human infections.

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