Basic Science and Clinical Research
Our faculty have well-established research programs in addition to collaborative relationships with researchers across Baylor College of Medicine and other academic institutions. Research projects range from molecular to clinical and include all categories of microorganisms. Particular strengths are in molecular immunology and cellular biology of acute inflammation, pathogenesis of bacterial infection and treatment and prevention of viral disease, although nearly every area of infectious disease medicine is included.
The foundation for clinical research training in infectious diseases at BCM was formed when the Respiratory Pathogens Research Unit was established in 1974 by Robert Couch, M.D., former chief of Section of Infectious Diseases, as the United States first Influenza Research Center and was expanded with the creation in 1991 of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit, directed by Wendy Keitel, M.D. Members of the Infectious Diseases Section, including Thomas Cate, M.D., Hana El-Sahly, M.D., and Shital Patel, M.D., pursue vaccine research projects within these very active and well funded units, such as “Safety, Reactogenicity, and Immunogenicity of Inactivated Influenza A/H7/N7 Vaccine in Healthy Adults” and “Comparison of the Immunogenicity, Safety and Reactogenicity of FluBlØk™”.
The Program in Innate Immunity and Infection began in 1999 with BCM's recruitment of David J. Tweardy, M.D., an innate immunologist to become chief of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Tweardy also is director of the NIH-funded Infection and Immunity Research Training Program (T32), which is the major source of clinical research stipends for Infectious Diseases fellows. The Program in Innate Immunity and Infection has expanded with the recruitment of Naijie Jing, Ph.D., an expert in the design and application of a novel class of drugs (G-quartet deoxyoligonucleotides; GQ-ODN), Shuo Dong, Ph.D., an expert in myeloid cell differentiation, Ana Moran M.D., who is interested in the role of apoptosis in susceptibility to pneumonia, and Burton F. Dickey, M.D., chief, Department of Pulmonary Medicine at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, who is investigating an innate and inducible mechanism of protection against pneumonia that does not involve neutrophils.
The Thomas Street Health Center is one of the largest free-standing HIV clinics in the U.S., caring for over 3,500 patients annually. The clinic has a very active program of clinical research. Thomas P. Giordano, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the clinic, he performs NIH and CDC funded research on access and adherence to HIV care and testing. Elizabeth Chiao, M.D., M.P.H. , conducts NIH-funded research on the epidemiology, prevention, and treatment of anal cancer and human papilloma virus infection, as well as the aging of the HIV-infected population. Roberto Andrade, M.D., conducts investigator-initiated protocols funded by industry and important industry-sponsored phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials, as well as studies of the NIH-funded Texas NeuroAIDS Research Center. Numerous other BCM and UTH faculty derive clinical material from the clinic for their research. Between 2001 and 2005, over 100-peer reviewed papers were published using patients and materials derived from TSHC.
The Center for AIDS Research at Baylor is directed by Janet Butel, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology. William T. Shearer M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of the NIH-funded Training Program for Clinical Research on AIDS, which is an additional source of research support for ID fellows. He is also the director of the Baylor HIV Clinical Trials Unit. Richard Sutton M.D., Ph.D., focuses on the use of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vectors for gene therapeutics and to study HIV itself. Prema Robinson, Ph.D., studies the role of neuropeptides in the pathogenesis of cryptosporidiosis and neurocysticercosis.
The Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center has active research programs in HIV infections and non-HIV infections. Maria Rodriguez-Barradas, M.D., is the director of the HIV clinical care and research program at the MEDVAMC. She is the Houston PI for the Veterans Aging Cohort Study, a prospective, observational cohort study of HIV infected veterans, age, race, and site matched to a non-HIV infected cohort. She also is the Houston VA PI for OPTIMA, a VA Cooperative study, INSIGHT, one of six HIV/AIDS clinical trials networks funded by the NIH and HI-TIDES (HIV translating initiatives for depression into effective solutions) a VA QUERI project. Dr. Rodriguez also has a long-standing interest in immunologic responses to pneumococcal vaccines among HIV-infected individuals.
Non-HIV infectious diseases research at the MEDVAMC is led by Daniel M. Musher, M.D., chief of the VA Infectious Diseases Service. Dr. Musher has a strong clinical interest in infectious diseases, especially those due to bacteria. Broad areas of research have included pulmonary and urinary tract infections. He had studied pathogenesis and host response to infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, Vibrio vulnificus, and Treponema pallidum. In the past few years, in response to the emergence of Clostridium difficile infection in hospitalized patients, he has developed an active research program to track and control this outbreak. Richard J. Hamill, M.D., program director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program, has a general research interest in the clinical manifestations of infectious diseases. Specifically, he has been recently working in the areas of fungal infections, immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome, Staphylococcus aureus infections, and Clostridium difficile infections. Edward J. Young, M.D., is an expert in Brucellosis infections.
The Center for Prostheses Infection was established in 1999 by Rabih O. Darouiche, M.D., professor in the Departments of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Darouiche is also the program director of the Multidisciplinary Alliance Against Device Related Infections. The Center for Prostheses Infections is comprised of clinical and research faculty representing eighteen different specialties, including Barbara W. Trautner, M.D., Ph.D. and Saima Aslam, M.D. Dr. Trautner is currently studying bacterial interference for prevention of catheter-associated urinary tract infection. Dr. Aslam’s program focuses on treatment and prevention of renal dialysis catheter infections. The principal mission of this unique Center is to improve the quality of life of persons who have medical prostheses by developing and implementing technologies to prevent or treat biofilm-related infections. One strategy being actively pursued by this group employs probiotics. James Versalovic, M.D., Ph.D., in the Department of Pathology, has collaborative projects with this center. Dr. Versalovic’s research interests focus on the use of probiotic lactobacillus strains to treat patients with inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and to prevent gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections.
Herbert L. DuPont, M.D., is the director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at The University of Texas School of Public Health. The major focus of Dr. DuPont’s investigations is the study of the epidemiology, microbiology, pathogenesis, immunology, risk factors, genetics, clinical features, control, prevention, and therapy of enteric and diarrheal diseases with public health implications. Often laboratory techniques and procedures developed in the United States are taken to the field in an international setting to help define public health strategies. Examples of recent groundbreaking work performed through Dr. DuPont’s global collaborations include trials of rifaximin as therapy of travelers’ diarrhea and elucidating the role of enteroaggregregative E. coli as a leading etiology of travelers’ diarrhea. Dr. DuPont has established collaborative relationships with academic centers in Mexico, Peru, India, Kenya, and Thailand.
The Houston Tuberculosis Initiative was begun by Edward A. Graviss, Ph.D., M.P.H. in 2000 to study the molecular basis and epidemiology of drug resistance along with the human and pathogen genotypic and phenotypic factors contributing to the disease process and severity of tuberculosis.
Samuel A. Shelburne III, M.D., M.S. focuses on understanding the molecular basis of bacterial infections in humans, especially Gram-positive pathogens. Currently he is investigating the relationship between carbon-source utilization and virulence in group A Streptococcus. Dr. Shelburne’s research program utilizes such molecular techniques as whole genome sequencing, expression microarray analysis, and isogenic mutant strain creation to define the contribution of specific group A Streptococcus genes to disease. Here is an example of the type of research performed by Dr. Shelburne.
The Center for Gastrointestinal Development, Infection and Injury directed by Mary K. Estes, Ph.D., began in 2001 and draws together a multidisciplinary group of investigators, including basic scientists with proven track records of success, and well-coordinated clinical programs dealing with adult GI patients. Within this group, Robert Atmar, M.D., focuses on the development and application of molecular approaches to detect hepatitis A virus and human caliciviruses, particularly Norwalk-like virus, in water, shellfish, and other foods. Dr. Atmar is also a founding member of the Virus Respiratory Pathogens Research Unit headed by Dr. Couch.
The Program for New Drug Development directed by Timothy G. Palzkill, Ph.D., chair, ad interim, of the Department of Pharmacology, was started in 2007. Dr. Palzkill is examining the structural basis of ß-lactamase inhibition with the goal, in part, of developing novel inhibitors for potential clinical use. He will be recruiting up to 10 new faculty members with state-of-the-art expertise in complementary areas of drug discovery. Lynn Zechiedrich, Ph.D., in the Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, is also a collaborator with Infectious Diseases Section faculty. Dr. Zechiedrich’s laboratory focuses on DNA structure/function, DNA topoisomerases and mechanisms of fluoroquinolone resistance.
The resources of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy and the Human Genome Center are also available to our faculty and trainees through the laboratories of Cliona M. Rooney, Ph.D., and George Weinstock, Ph.D.