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Pathogenesis and host-pathogen/toxin interaction

Novel diagnostic markers, vaccines and therapeutic strategies for prophylaxis and treatment of microbial infectious diseases caused by common world bio-threat agents are developed on the basis of studies aimed at deciphering the mechanisms of virulence and host-pathogen interactions manifested in​ the course of infection and disease progression. ​
Novel virulence factors of highly-pathogenic bacteria such as Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis and Francisella tularensis were identified by high through-put global inspe​ction approaches implementing a variety of techniques: proteomic (concomitant visualization and identification of bacterial proteins), functional genomic (functi​onal evaluation of all the genomic repertoire of a pathogen), serological/immunomic (determination of the antigenic potential of a large number of proteins). 
Our ongoing research in Virology has revealed new, important insights about the human immune system response to viruses.​​​​
We also study the effects of protein toxins such as Clostridi​um Botulinum toxin and Plant derived toxins.
These studies generated d​ata bases of potential protein candidates which are further evaluated by inspecting the phenotype associated with their specific gene disruption in animal models of infection. Some virulence factors may serve as disease bio-markers for early diagnosis of infection while others may be implemented in the designing process of novel live attenuated vaccines. Bioinformatic and experimental Identification of specific bacterial epitopes involved in the interaction with host specific immune receptors and mediators can pave the way for future approaches addressing vaccine development in the context of personal medicine. (20-30 references of last 7 years to be provided).​​

Yersinia pestis

​The gram-negative pathogen Yersinia pestis is the causative agent of plague, a disease that has caused millions of deaths in three world pandemics. Plague still persists in Africa, Asia and the Americas and it is categorized as a re-emerging disease. The most prevalent form of the disease in nature is bubonic plague, which develops following transmission of the pathogen from rodent reservoirs to humans via infected fleas.

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Bacillus anthracis

​Bacillus anthracis, the ethological cause of Anthrax, is a spore- forming gram positive bacteria. Our group has mastered multiple clinical and laboratory microbiology techniques, from classical isolation and plating and selective growth in complicated media, to light microscopy, confocal and scanning (SEM) or transmission electron microscopy (TEM).

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Francisella tularensis

Francisella tularensis, the causative agent of tularemia, is a gram-negative facultative intracellular bacterium that can cause a life-threatening infection in humans. Depending on the site of infection, tularemia has several characteristic clinical variants. Of these, the respiratory route of infection is the most severe, causing a deadly disease upon exposure to a very low inhalation dose (as few as 1–10 bacteria).

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​Development of advanced laboratory techniques and tools for the isolation and propagation of various pathogenic viruses.Clinical and environmental diagnosis of viruses – isolation and identification using advanced techniques such as Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), genetic and immune-based diagnosis.

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Microbial toxins (botulinum)

Botulinum neutotoxins (BoNTs) are produced by the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum and are the most poisonous substances known in nature. Following entry into the circulation, BoNTs block neuro-transmission across neuromuscular junctions leading to systemic flaccid paralysis that may lead to respiratory failure and death.  

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Plant derived toxins (ricin, abrin)

Ricin and abrin are potent plant-derived lethal toxins that halt protein synthesis in cells. Pulmonary or systemic exposure to these toxins induces ARDS (acute respiratory stress syndrome) and multi-organ failure, respectively, leading inevitably to death.

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