Immunology and Host Defense

Lab head: Dr Carl Feng
Location: Level 5E, Charles Perkins Centre D17, The University of Sydney, Camperdown Campus

Funding: NHMRC

Defining human innate response triggered by virulent mycobacteria

Primary supervisor: Carl Feng

Mycobacterium tuberculosisis a virulent bacterium as it is able to evade immune clearance and cause persistent infection. One third of the world’s population is infected with the pathogen and 10% of them will eventually develop tuberculosis (TB) in their lifetime. This global health burden of TB has intensified with the increasing prevalence of drug-resistant M. tuberculosis strains and HIV co-infection. Understanding the mechanisms underlying persistent M. tuberculosis infection will lead to new strategies for the prevention and treatment of TB. We have previously reported that virulent and avirulent mycobacteria trigger distinct innate responses in human macrophages. In this study, we will examine the question how the host discriminates between the two types of mycobacteria. We will generate recombinant mycobacteria that allow detection by the host cell using a fluorescent reporter system. Infected cells will be analysed to determine if microbial components can escape into the cytoplasm and how this mechanism triggers innate immune signaling. Identification of innate immune activation will provide crucial evidence for how mycobacteria persist in macrophages and the immune pathways involved. Techniques involved include mycobacterial and mammalian cell culture, plasmid cloning and molecular biology techniques, transfection, western blotting and confocal microscopy.

Discipline: Infectious diseases and Immunology
Co-supervisors: James Triccas, Sebastian Stifter
Keywords: cell signalling, Immune response, Gene knockdown and molecular biology