The School of Natural Sciences
Protection vs. Pathogenesis: Host-Pathogen Interactions in Fungal Infection
Alison Coady, Ph.D.
Department of Pediatrics
University of California San Diego
Wednesday, June 9th, 2021
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Annually, more than 1.5 million deaths are attributed to fungal infection. These numbers represent a global trend for increases in invasive fungal disease, driven in part by a growing number of immunosuppressed patients and an alarming rise in antifungal-resistant infections. Importantly, when antifungal treatments fail, patient outcomes are determined by the balance between productive infection control and effective limitation of damaging host responses. Using both local (UTI) and systemic models of Candida albicans infection, I have identified key host and fungal factors that underlie host-pathogen interactions and dictate pathological outcomes, including the urinary protein Tamm-Horsfall Protein, the sialic-acid binding Siglec receptors, and the antimicrobial peptide cathelicidin. Collectively, this work suggests that host responses are a primary mediator of fungal pathogenesis during invasive fungal disease. My long-term research goal is to understand how and when the host response to fungal infection switches from a canonical protective effect to a detrimental driver of disease, leveraging these findings for the identification of novel druggable pathways to treat fungal infection.
Alison grew up in Washington, where she received a BS in Microbiology from the University of Washington. After graduating, she spent two years in Zambia as a Peace Corp volunteer, teaching sustainable aquaculture. As an NSF graduate research fellow, she completed her PhD at UC San Francisco under Dr. Anita Sil, identifying a critical role for MyD88 in the host response to the fungal pathogen Histoplasma capsulatum. As an A.P. Giannini postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Victor Nizet’s lab at UC San Diego, she has integrated her love of fungal pathogenesis with the lab’s expertise in innate immunity and bacterial pathogens to study fungal-bacterial interaction, host glycobiology, and the immunopathology of fungal infection. She is excited to continue building her independent research program with support from a recent NIAID K22 award.
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