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Research Lab – Department of Clinical Sciences 

Intestinal Pathogens Research

Lab Contact:    919.513.6295

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.

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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.

Teaching Animation Models 

Our Lab in the News 

To read most of our research publications online, click here.

For a printable list, click here.

Our research isn’t possible without the support of our sponsors. Thanks to the following agencies and foundations for their support:

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).

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PhD Students

Victoria (Tory) Watson, DVM, DACVP
CMTRTP PhD candidate
College of Veterinary Medicine
North Carolina State University
I joined the Intestinal Pathogens Research laboratory in 2013. I received my D.V.M. from the University of Georgia in 2009 and completed residency training in anatomic pathology at UGA in 2013. I am interested in enhancing our understanding of  the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal infectious disease and particularly uncovering novel interactions between infectious organisms, the host, and the gut microbiome. The overall goal of this research is development of innovative strategies to prevent or ameliorate disease due to enteropathogenic organisms in both animals and humans. My thesis research is focused on the human pathogen enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC) and the role of EPEC as a cause of diarrheal disease in kittens. Given the lack of naturally occurring animal models of EPEC infection, investigation of natural EPEC infection in kittens represents a powerful tool to benefit both human and veterinary medicine. Our research, in collaboration with another department at NCSU, has also focused on manufacturing a novel probiotic for use as a possible protective therapeutic against EPEC infection in kittens.
Sylvia Ferguson, DVM, DACVP

PhD Student
Comparative Medicine Institute
North Carolina State University

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.