Different bacterial species that exist in close proximity, called polymicrobial communities, send signals to one another that can influence the growth of an infection and its severity.
Dominique Limoli, PhD, looks to infiltrate their communications.
Limoli’s lab primarily studies the interaction between two different bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF).
“We’re interested in these two pathogens because they’re the most common in patients with cystic fibrosis but also the most problematic,” says Limoli, University of Iowa assistant professor of microbiology and immunology. “These bacteria can co-exist within a single patient for many years. There are very few other circumstances where you can actually follow the evolutionary arms race between bacterial species within individual people.”
During her first postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University, Limoli first discovered that patients coinfected by P. aeruginosa and S. aureus had poorer clinical outcomes than those infected with one or the other. Now, her lab seeks to understand how these bacteria interact and influence infection, potentially causing patients to have worse lung infection, pulmonary exacerbations, and shorter lifespans. Limoli recently received a five-year, $1.93 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund the research.