Francis Alonzo, Ph.D.
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago
Major Research Interests: We are interested in investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying Staphylococcus aureus disease processes and bacterial evasion of the host immune response.
My laboratory studies the pathogenic bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. Specifically, we are interested in determining how S. aureus adjusts from a lifestyle as a transient commensal to a virulent pathogen through metabolic adaptation and evasion of host immune defenses. We are currently investigating the mechanisms of action of a number of novel immunomodulatory factors produced by S. aureus that perturb macrophage pro-inflammatory activity. This modulation of macrophage function enhances pathogenic outcomes during infection. Our research uses elements of bacterial genetics, biochemistry, immunology, and cell biology to define how these factors modulate macrophage function in vitro and in vivo, ultimately allowing us to determine how S. aureus subverts immune defenses. In addition, we investigate the effects of nutritional restriction within host tissues on S. aureus viability. In doing so, we aim to identify novel mechanisms used by S. aureus to adapt to life inside an infected host. We anticipate this work will stimulate the development of novel therapeutics designed to treat diseases cause by S. aureus with potential applicability to pathogens that behave similarly.