Our bacteriology program is engaged in fundamental research concerning antimicrobial discoveries, host-bacterial interactions, bacterial pathogenesis, vector-borne bacteria, vector biology, and diagnostics. The research, led by Drs. Daniel Nelson, Utpal Pal, Sean Riley, Xiuli Yang, Mostafa Ghanem, and  Seth Dickey, aims to enhance our understanding of bacterial infections in humans and animals, as well as the disease processes triggered by bacteria such as Borrelia burgdorferi, Clostridium difficile, Leptospira, Rickettsia, Avian Mycoplasma spp., Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus spp. Furthermore, the team focuses on pioneering novel vaccines and antimicrobial development through molecular engineering approaches.

The rise of multidrug-resistant bacteria, the emergence of new pathogens, and the imperative to curtail antimicrobial use in agricultural products have prompted the exploration of alternative antimicrobial therapeutics. In this context,

nDr. Nelson’s laboratory employs a multidisciplinary approach to unearth peptidoglycan hydrolase enzymes, known as endolysins, sourced from bacteriophages. These endolysins are subsequently applied to combat bacterial pathogens. Operating upon contact, these enzymes swiftly degrade the cell walls of bacterial pathogens affecting both humans and animals. Notable examples include Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus. To enhance the functionality of endolysins, Dr. Nelson's team is engaged in engineering and producing variants with improved reliability and enhanced properties.

Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) stands as a significant contributor to both human and animal diseases, presenting formidable treatment challenges with existing antibiotics. In the pursuit of pioneering solutions to counter these infections,

dDr. Dickey’s laboratory employs cutting-edge genetic methodologies. These techniques facilitate a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying MRSA infections and the identification of innovative drug targets. Moreover, Dr. Dickey's team is deeply engrossed in the exploration of molecular and biochemical intricacies associated with a novel class of potent antimicrobial peptides. These peptides exhibit promising potential in eradicating strains of MRSA


Dr. Pal's laboratory is dedicated to investigating a significant tick-borne zoonosis known as Lyme disease. Their research centers on multidisciplinary collaborative endeavors that tackle both fundamental and translational facets of this complex infection. The approach integrates diverse realms of biomedical sciences, spanning vector biology, microbiology, structural biology, drug discovery, vaccine development, and therapeutics. The ultimate objective is to cultivate innovative strategies for prevention and treatment, forging new paths in the field.

The bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii is the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), the most prevalent rickettsial infection in the USA. Rickettsial pathogens are typically transmitted to humans through the bites of ticks, mites, fleas, or lice that have previously fed on infected animals.

rDr. Riley’s laboratory is dedicated to advancing our comprehension of the intricate host-pathogen interplay involving obligate intracellular Rickettsia, mammalian hosts, and arthropod vectors. The research encompasses several specific inquiries: unraveling the interactions between Rickettsia and innate immunity, exploiting the molecular dialogues between bacteria and host cells for therapeutic development, employing genomic methodologies to pinpoint virulence factors contributing to diseases, and harnessing insights from evolutionary biology to pinpoint promising vaccine candidates.

The progress made in genomic technology has brought about a transformative impact on disease management within the human domain, yet this potential remains largely untapped in animal populations, particularly within the poultry sector. The swift and precise diagnostics, strain classification capabilities, enriched disease insights, and elevated biosecurity measures facilitated by genomic technology hold the promise of substantial enhancements in both animal health and productivity.

Dr. Ghanem’s laboratory is dedicated to advancing the frontiers of molecular diagnostics and classification methodologies. Leveraging the potential of next-generation sequencing, these advancements are aimed at molecular typing and investigating the spread of infectious diseases with economic implications (such as Avian Mycoplasma and Avibacterium paragalinarum) and those with relevance to public health (like Salmonella Spp.). The overarching objective is to harness and apply these sophisticated molecular diagnostic and genotyping strategies in the realms of surveillance, preemptive measures, and disease control. Through these endeavors, the intention is to elevate the health and overall well-being of both animals and humans. The anticipated outcomes encompass safeguarding and enhancing the health of poultry flocks, curtailing economic losses, and fostering a sustainable and efficient landscape for poultry production.