From its inception in 1918, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has recognized the contribution of immunology research to public health. From the pioneering work on vaccination and the immune responses to pneumococcus, typhoid, streptococcus, diphtheria and malaria, MMI faculty carry on the tradition of applying modern immunological approaches to major public health issues.
MMI faculty members are carrying out cutting-edge research to advance our understanding of the immunobiology and pathogenesis of major viral pathogens.
With its devastating toll on public health in developing countries, malaria has been a focus of MMI research for decades. An understanding of how malaria, with its ability to undergo antigenic variation, interacts with the host immune response is key for developing approaches to effectively control infection and break the transmission cycle. Professor Dr. Fidel Zavala’s research focuses on defining the appropriate parasite antigens and the cellular and molecular mechanisms required to eliminate malaria during its early stages of development.
Dr. Jay Bream’s laboratory focuses on the molecules that maintain a proper balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses with a particular emphasis on the molecular and cell biology of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10.
Dr. Alan Scott’s laboratory studies the immune responses directed against the blood stage of the malaria parasite in the lung. Another focuss is helminth parasites (nematodes, trematodes, tape worms) which, at any given time, infect over a third of the human population. These long-lived multicellular parasites induce immune responses that result in a fundamental change in the immune status of infected individuals. Dr. Scott’s lab also investigates the impact of parasitic nematodes on host immunity with special emphasis on molecular and cellular mechanisms employed by the worm to modulate immune responses.
Professor Diane Griffin’s laboratory studies the immune response to measles virus infection and vaccination. These studies are aimed at defining new vaccine approaches that will protect even very young children as well as defining the cellular and humoral mechanisms of measles virus clearance, protective immunity and induction of both immune suppression and long-term immunological memory. The Griffin lab also studies immunity to Sindbis and other alpha viruses that cause encephalitis to understand the immune responses that protect neurons from destruction.
Dr. Joseph Margolick’s research centers on the cellular immunology and pathogenesis of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) with particular emphasis on the regulation of CD4 T cell turnover and immune homeostasis. Dr. Richard Markham’s laboratory focuses on HIV infection through mucosal surfaces. He is exploring novel immunological strategies for blocking viral attachment to human cells. In addition, efforts to develop a more potent HIVvaccine are now being applied to the creation of a vaccine to protect against malaria.
Just as an appropriately focused immune response can protect from pathogen challenge and promote health, a dysregulated immune response can lead to autoimmunity and immune-mediated pathology. The late Noel Rose, professor and former MMI department chair, was a recognized expert on the immunology of thyroiditis and autoimmune myocarditis. Professor Rose studied autoimmunity and the roles that immune cells and cytokines play in the induction and regulation of autoimmune disease.
Influenza virus is consistently a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality by virtue of the ability to change its antigenic identity. The spectre of pandemic influenza arising from new antigenic variants of this virus underscores the importance of defining how this respiratory pathogen interacts with the immune system. Dr. Andrew Pekosz studies the pathogenesis of influenza virus at mucosal surfaces with the goal of identifying viral antigens that can be used in a vaccine that will blunt the impact of new viral variants.
The sex of an individual is a fundamental factor that influences exposure, susceptibility and the immune response to influenza virus. Dr. Sabra Klein’s laboratory examines the antibody and cellular responses induced by influenza virus in the context of the hormonal, genetic and epigenetic differences inherent to males and females. Dr. Klein also studies endocrine-immune interactions and the role of sex as a determining factor in the differential susceptibility of males and females to infection with pathogenic hantaviruses.
Professor Gary Ketner is exploiting detailed knowledge on the immunology and molecular genetics of Adenovirus to develop novel vaccine delivery systems that will protect people from a variety of pathogens including papilloma virus and malaria.