Infection biology and virulence of Borrelia spirochetes
This project aims to further the understanding of Borrelia spirochete virulence.
The specific objective of this study are:
1) to perform full genome analysis of several different Borrelia species and thereby gain more profound understanding of virulence through comparative genomics
2) to expand the characterization of neolacto glycans as receptors mediating erythrocyte rosetting of relapsing fever (RF) Borrelia by exploring the entire RF Borrelia surface proteome
3) to characterize several Borrelia porins, P13, DipA and P66, as well as the channel-tunnel protein BesC further in structure as well as function
4) to investigate the molecular interplay of the host immune system during malaria and RF Borrelia co-infection.
Borrelia has been classified as Gram-negative bacteria, albeit upon closer scrutiny a number of important differences are apparent, both architectural and composition-wise. This includes a lack of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), large numbers of surface located lipoproteins and the additional function of periplasmic flagella in defining cell shape. The researchers will gain more profound understanding of virulence through comparative genomics. The outcome of these studies will be instrumental in the generation of future therapeutic and diagnostic tools. A neglected area of research is the study of concomitant infections by vector borne pathogens, a common entity in sub-Saharan Africa that would be studied during the co-infections.