To understand mechanisms leading to the development of a protective host response to intracellular bacteria, it is necessary to understand the host-parasite interaction at both the cellular level as well as in vivo. An understanding of these events may help to develop means to interfere with virulence mechanisms of the bacteria. We use Francisella tularensis as a model organism and, in vitro, characterize the effects of the infection by analyzing host transcriptional pathways, effector enzymes, and mechanisms of host cell death. In an experimental murine model of tularemia, cells and soluble mediators involved in the host response are studied. In the same model we also study the prerequisites for generation of protection to F. tularensis and try to develop a new vaccine by screening of mutant bacteria.
Altogether 7 Ph. D. students and 5 molecular biologist work in the group. We have a fully equipped laboratory for work with microarrays, in vitro cell infections and animal models. We are breeding mice deficient for B cells, subsets of T cells, IFN-g, inducible nitric oxide synthase, and NADPH oxidase.
We have a collaboration with a international consrortium headed by DVC, USA together with researchers from UK and Canada we have received a US$35.1 million grant from NIH to develop a live vaccine against F. tularensis.