Dr. Tony Maurelli recently joined EGH from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, Maryland where he was Professor of Microbiology and Immunology. His office in HPNP is on the fourth floor and his laboratory is in the Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI). His research interests are molecular genetics and pathogenesis in the facultative intracellular pathogen Shigella and in the obligate intracellular pathogen, Chlamydia. Shigella are the causative agents of bacillary dysentery while organisms of the genus Chlamydia cause sexually transmitted infections, pneumonia, and blinding eye infections.
Shigella pathogenesis – Studies on Shigella flexneri concern identification of secreted virulence products of Shigella and their role in pathogenesis. The goal is to apply molecular genetics and structural analyses to determine how these proteins interact with host cell proteins to modulate the innate immune response. Another project involves pathogen evolution and focuses on identifying genes that have been lost from Shigella due to their incompatibility with expression of virulence. The most recent project focuses on understanding the evolution and public health consequences of a recently emerging group of Shigella strains that produce a potent toxin, Shiga toxin.
Chlamydia pathogenesis – The Maurelli laboratory is studying the biochemical pathway for synthesis of peptidoglycan (PG) in Chlamydia and the role of PG in bacterial growth and cell division. Since PG fragments are potent ligands for stimulation of innate immune responses, the mechanisms of turnover of PG and the effects of Chlamydia PG fragments on host cell signaling is also being examined. A second project focuses on the study of how Chlamydia acquires essential nutrients from its host and defining the critical metabolic pathways that the bacterium employs to synthesize bacterial-unique components that the host cell cannot provide.
Public Health – The UF-EPI Haiti Lab 1-Gressier is the first site of an on-going surveillance project to measure sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the adult population in two regions, Gressier and Baradères. Participants are recruited, consented and tested for four major STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. They also take a survey on sexual behavior, risk factors, and mobility. Data from these surveys can be used by local stakeholders to develop effective interventions to reduce the incidence of STIs.