Worms, germs, and buffalo: a coinfection story
Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa
January 24 at 12:20pm in the Steger Hall Auditorium
Hosted by Dr. F. Schubot
Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa is a distinguished scientist and Professor in the Odum School of Ecology & the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia. She received her B.S. from Rice University and her Ph.D. from Princeton University. Dr. Ezenwa then trained at the United States Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia, where she was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow. In 2005 she became a faculty member at the University of Montana before moving to the University of Georgia in 2010. Her research program integrates molecular and ecological aspects of infectious diseases. As such, Dr. Ezenwa’s work combines field studies of ungulate systems in sub-Saharan Africa with molecular and immunological laboratory approaches and theory to address key questions of infectious disease. Ultimately, Dr. Ezenwa’s research sheds novel light on the diverse processes that drive host health and disease transmission more broadly, with important consequences for understanding human health.
Concurrent infection by multiple parasites can shape the trajectory and outcome of infectious diseases. For example, coinfections with parasitic worms can affect the progression and severity of microbial infections, including many viral and bacterial infections. Although an increasing number of studies are investigating the consequences of worm-microbe coinfections in laboratory settings, we still know very little about the repercussions of coinfection in natural environments. This is despite the fact that a majority of hosts (including humans), are simultaneously infected with multiple parasites. Ongoing work in my laboratory is using experimental and observational studies of wild animal populations to understand how coinfection with worms affects the host response and population dynamics of microbial pathogens. Nearly a third of the world’s human population, as well as most wild and domesticated animals harbor worm infections, and the geographic distribution of parasitic worms often coincides with the distributions of key microbial pathogens that threaten human and animal health. Our work is revealing that both active infection with worms, and a host's constitutive response to worm infection, have profound implications for the outcome of microbial diseases such as tuberculosis.