In order to design novel vaccine candidates for the prevention of otitis media (or middle ear infection), it is necessary to understand how the human child responds immunologically to specific members of the normal bacterial flora that typically colonize the pediatric nasopharynx shortly after birth, as it is these bacteria that act as opportunistic pathogens of the middle ear during viral upper respiratory tract infections. This early and primary response to benign colonization is known to prime the immune system, and can thus influence both secondary immune responses as well as those directed by immunization. With the assistance of our community pediatricians, pediatric ENT surgeons and the Clinical Studies Group at Nationwide Children's Hospital, we are collecting samples from both healthy children as well as those with chronic otitis media to analyze in our efforts to gain both important prospective information relative to the early host response to bacterial colonization of the uppermost airway, as well as retrospective data regarding the human response to bacterial otitis media, and in particular – to repeated invasion of the middle ear by specific microbes.
We receive primary cervical and placental tissue from the Cooperative Human Tissue Network (CHTN), which we use to procure human epithelial cells that retain the characteristics of the parental tissue from which they were derived. There is no animal model that mimics human disease caused by the pathogenic Neisseria, and immortal cell lines are altered in the level and types of proteins that they express. Therefore, these primary human cells allow us to study gonococcal disease in a model that is most reflective of that environment encountered by this bacterium within the female genital tract.
In conjunction with the Nephrology and Urology Research Affinity Group, we are collaborating with Dr. Stephen Koff and the pediatric urology outpatient care clinic to collect bacterial strains that cause bladder infections in pediatric patients to determine if these strains differ from adult strains in the ability to evade the host innate immune response.
We also are collaborating with Dr. Carl Bates to characterize urinary tract infections that arise due to urethral urine reflux using a mouse model that his laboratory has developed. And we are working with Dr. Bill Smoyer to determine bacterial traits that result in kidney infections leading to renal scarring and other conditions resulting in abnormal kidney function.
A recent manuscript from the Justice Lab was highlighted on the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) blog, "Small Things Considered."
We receive primary adenoid and tonsillar tissue from the CHTN through the Biopathology Center to develop tools that will more accurately model how S. pneumoniae interacts with the airway epithelium.
Mario Marcon, PhD, Director, and Marilyn Hribar, MT, SM(ASCP), in the Department of Microbiology, Virology & Molecular Microbiology and Immunochemistry, provide us with S. pneumoniae clinical isolates, and have trained us to isolate respiratory pathogens from nasopharyngeal swabs.