Research Lab – Department of Clinical Sciences
Intestinal Pathogens Research
Lab Contact: 919.513.6295 | 919-513-6415
The Intestinal Pathogens Research lab seeks to define mechanisms of intestinal defense and repair in infectious enteritis and identify rational approaches to nutritional and pharmacologic enhancement of epithelial repair. Toward this end, our laboratory is focused on the study of two enteric protozoal pathogens; Cryptosporidium parvum and Tritrichomonas foetus as well as the role of enteric bacteria in both inflammatory bowel disease and necrotizing enterocolitis.
Cryptosporidium parvum infects the single columnar epithelial lining of the small intestine. This epithelium is the first line of defense against translocation of luminal bacteria, antigens, or endotoxin into the body while also being responsible for selective absorption of the majority of nutrients, electrolytes and water required for life. Infection with C. parvum is a leading cause of diarrhea in infants worldwide and in adults with HIV. Contamination of municipal water supplies with C. parvum oocysts has resulted in the largest outbreaks of waterborne diarrhea in U.S. history. Despite intensive effort, a consistently effective antimicrobial therapy for C. parvum infection or means for decontamination of cysts shed into the environment has yet to be identified. Resistance, infectivity and potential for widespread morbidity have ranked C. parvum as a priority pathogen for biodefense research.
Our Veterinary Scholars
We are proud to have hosted the following veterinary and undergraduate students: 2014 – Stuart Ellis, Hayley Andre (Univ. of Surrey) and Melissa Tamimi (Clemson Univ.) | 2013 – Amy DiDomenico | 2010 – Hannah Preedy (Univ. of Surrey) | 2007 – Sara Gray | 2005 – Leah M. Zadrozny | 2004 – Christina Copple | 2003 – Jessica Allen, Carol St. John | 2002 – Sophia Chiang, Laurel Duckett, Derek Foster. Learn more about the Veterinary Scholars Program.
Teaching Animation Models
Our Lab in the News
Our research isn’t possible without the support of our sponsors. Thanks to the following agencies and foundations for their support:
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease at UNC-Chapel Hill
- North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute
- Morris Animal Foundation
- Winn Feline Foundation
- Waltham Foundation
You can make a difference. Help us in our fight against T. Foetus infection!
Make a tax-deductible donation to STRIVE – Support for T. foetus Research Innovation and Veterinarian Education – by clicking the button below (please indicate the name of the lab in your gift).
Dr. Ferguson obtained her DVM from the University of Georgia in 2011, and then went on to complete residency training in anatomic pathology at the University of Tennessee. She then became a board certified member of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in 2014. Her primary research interests are understanding host-pathogen interactions of zoonotic pathogens, particularly those that cause diarrhea. Currently, her thesis research (under the direction of Dr. Jody Gookin) is examining the host intestinal epithelial response to the protozoal pathogen, Cryptosporidium, with a specific focus oninnate immunity and intestinal regeneration/ repair. Dr. Gookin’s laboratory utilizes cell culture and ex-vivo approaches, in addition to a well-established, neonatal piglet model to study the disease.