Rhodes Lab

My lab is interested in understanding how bacteria in the Neisseria genus adapt to their hosts. Most Human dwelling Neisseria are part of the microbiota in healthy adults, but very little is known of how these organisms maintain populations on the mucosal surface. Of the human adapted Neisseria, only Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Ngo) and Neisseria meningitidis (Nme) consistently exhibit pathogenicity and result in millions of infections every year. However, the line between commensalism and pathogenicity within the Neisseria genus is blurred due to the high prevalence of asymptomatic infection by Ngo and Nme. As Ngo and Nme likely share commensal ancestry, and many genes implicated in infection are also conserved in commensal Neisseria, we propose that investigating the function of these conserved genes during commensalism may also provide insight into asymptomatic infection. Our research uses animal and tissue culture models, microscopy, and biochemical and genetic approaches to investigate the mechanisms driving Neisseria survival in inhospitable host environments. Answering these basic science question may one day lead to new therapeutic measures which reduce the burden of pathogenic Neisseria on human health.