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Rebecca Malott

PhD - Post Doctoral Fellow, Dr. David Speert's Laboratory

Dr. Malott is a microbial pathogenesist who joined the Speert laboratory in September 2010 for her senior postdoctoral fellowship. Her research focuses on small bacterial metabolites; the regulation of metabolite biosynthesis by obligate and opportunistic bacterial pathogens and how these metabolites modulate the human immune system during health and disease.

Current Research Projects:

I. Characterization of a Neisseria gonorrhoeae-derived metabolite that drives HIV-1 expression in co-infected CD4+ T lymphocytes.

Clinical and epidemiological evidence suggests that common co-infecting sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhoea, are associated with an increased risk of HIV-1 transmission and seroconversion upon exposure to the virus. This project aims to understand how Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the causative agent of gonorrhoea, mediates these effects at the molecular level. The central hypothesis is that a soluble N. gonorrhoeae-derrived metabolite induces expression of HIV-1 in its primary target cell, CD4+ T lymphocytes. Identification of the Neisseria-specific inducing factor and further understanding of its immune effects will provide a new paradigm for the interaction between N. gonorrhoeae and the HIV-1 infected host.

II. Evaluation of the pathogenic potential of early versus late clinical Burkholderia multivorans isolates.

B. multivorans is part of the B. cepacia complex, a group of opportunistic bacterial pathogens of great importance in individuals with cystic fibrosis (CF). Infection with these bacteria can cause a wide range of clinical outcomes in CF patients, ranging from mild disease to rapidly progressive septicemic death. The reasons for heterogeneous disease progression among these patients remain unclear. This project aims to study the effect of metabolites produced by bacteria isolated at different stages of infection on pulmonary epithelial tissue. Determining differential production of immunomodulatory bacterial metabolites would lead to a further understanding of pulmonary virulence in this elusive complex of organisms.


Laboratory Members

Selected Publications