The School of Natural Sciences
Balancing damage control during infection: How viral InterFereNce results in fungal susceptibility
Kelly M. Shepardson, Ph.D.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Montana State University
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021
To Zoom in, please use this link: https://ucmerced.zoom.us/j/88010728645
Between four and eight million people worldwide suffer from respiratory infections caused by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus (Af). Each year over 300,000 of those cases are due to invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA) in patients with suppressed immune systems. Increases in cases and severity of secondary aspergillosis among both influenza and COVID-19 patients suggest that anti-viral immune responses may contribute to the establishment of a transiently suppressed immune environment in the lung that becomes permissive to Af infection. Our recent evidence suggests that variation within a potent and broad early anti-viral immune response called type I interferon signaling, creates this Af permissive environment through dysregulation of the host damage response. Because the severity of lung tissue damage is directly linked with the outcome of Af infection and progression to IPA, understanding the type I interferon regulation of damage and anti-fungal immunity could inform design of better treatments aimed at improving prognosis of patients with invasive fungal infections. My long-term research focus is to understand the lung-specific anti-viral immune mechanisms that shape the ability of the host to respond to fungal infection.
I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of central New York and received my B.A. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Wells College (Aurora, NY). I earned my Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in Dr. Robert A. Cramer’s laboratory where I focused on understanding the role of hypoxia (low oxygen) in host-fungal pathogenesis. I continued my training as a postdoc, and more recently, as a Research Scientist, in Dr. Agnieszka Rynda-Apple’s laboratory at Montana State University where I focused on understanding how host anti-viral immune responses affect susceptibility to secondary bacterial infection. My recent Parker B. Francis fellowship award allowed me to begin my independent investigation on the role of anti-viral immunity in regulating damage responses to respiratory fungal infections.
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