NIH-FDA Immunology Interest Group 1.18.23
Victor J. Torres is a microbiologist investigating how multidrug-resistant bacteria cause disease and identifying new therapies to fight and prevent infection. Torres uses a diverse range of techniques spanning genetics, molecular biology, immunology, and bioinformatics to study the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). S. aureus causes a wide range of diseases, from mild skin infections to life-threatening blood infections. Highly virulent and, in some instances, resistant to antibiotics (known as methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA), S. aureus is responsible for millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths each year. Torres ’ s finding that S. aureus toxins overwhelm the immune system by targeting specific cells — rather than indiscriminately attacking the host — upends previous models of host-cell interactions and has important implications for vaccine development. Vaccine candidates targeting the bacteria directly have been ineffective. Torres ’ s work suggests blocking leukocidins that are destroying immune system cells could be key to vaccine success. He and colleagues recently created a class of centyrins (engineered proteins) that neutralize leukocidins. In studies with animal models, the centyrins allowed the animals ’ immune systems to clear the infection. Torres has greatly advanced our understanding of S. aureus pathogenesis, and his development of several potential treatment strategies will be critical in our heated battle with this ...
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