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Student Profiles:
jwren

Jack Wren, PhD



Matriculated: 2010

Graduate Program: Microbiology and Immunology

Education:

B.S. Biology and Religion, 2010; Washington and Lee University; Lexington, Virgina

Ph.D., Department of Microbiology and Immunology, 2015, Laboratory of Dr. W. Edward Swords

Research:
I am very interested in the interaction between potential pathogens that regularly reside in the human nose. Specifically, we are investigating bacterial and viral infections in the nose as it is one of the primary gateways to the rest of the body. Yet in a perfectly healthy person, the nose is teeming with bacteria causing no ill effects. I study one of those bacteria in particular (Streptococcus pneumoniae). You can find this bacteria in 30% of healthy adults, and in the great majority of cases this bacterium in the nose causes no problems, no disease. If anything it may be beneficial. However, this same bacterium is the leading cause worldwide of meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis, and ear infections. My research is aimed at investigating what exactly induces this bacterium to leave its ecological niche in the nose to cause disease (specifically, ear infections). We have shown in a mouse model that this bacteria will remain in the nose in the nose and not cause ear infections. However, if we first infect these mice with a mild influenza virus infection, 100% of mice develop an ear infection. The ability of two very different pathogens (a bacterium and a virus) to synergistically interact begins to explain why, even in the vaccine era, ear infections continue to be so difficult to prevent and to treat.

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