The Orihuela Lab
Our lab studies the opportunistic bacterial pathogen, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Despite having been one of the first isolated bacterial pathogens (in 1881 by Sternberg and Pasteur, independently), and having available preventative vaccines since 1977, S pneumoniae remains one of the leading causes of infectous death worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates 1.4 million deaths each year are the result of invasive pneumococcal disease (e.g. pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, etc.), primarily of the very young, the immunocompromised, and the elderly.
For 22 years, the research focus of Dr. Orihuela has been the host-pathogen interactions that underlie the development of invasive pneumococcal disease. The goal of this research has been to better characterize the molecular mechanisms which orchestrate these interactions, advancing the foundations of understanding to improve therapies and preventative treatments. Recently our lab has been focused on exploring the molecular basis of organ invasion (e.g. cardiac, kidney, etc.) during severe infection with Streptococcus pneumoniae, dissecting the intricate relationships between bacterial proteins and polysaccharides and the host response. Most recently this includes examining the role of pore-forming toxin-mediated cell death, namely necroptosis, and the bacterial capsule in the development of invasive disease.