Although diseases such as smallpox and polio have been all but eradicated, other diseases once considered to be under control—such as tuberculosis, malaria and cholera—are back and in virulent form.
New York Medical College wages an ongoing war against the enemy, primarily through the Division of Infectious Diseases. Yet work doesn’t stop there as researchers throughout the university work independently and in collaboration on projects aimed at developing new treatments, diagnostic tools and vaccines against infectious diseases.
Headed by Gary P. Wormser, M.D., professor of medicine and of pharmacology, who also directs the Lyme Disease Diagnostic Center at the College and at Westchester Medical Center, the Division of Infectious Diseases was the first to recognize and prove the existence in New York State of human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE), another potentially more serious tick-borne infection that can be transmitted alone or in tandem with Lyme.
Robert Nadelman, M.D., professor of medicine, has worked closely with Dr. Wormser in numerous studies of the clinical and laboratory manifestations of tick-borne diseases, most particularly Lyme disease. He has a special interest in investigating the clinical manifestations and the role of Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent responsible for Lyme, in variability in patients with recurrent episodes of early Lyme disease.
Debra Bessen, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, leads a research team focused on understanding the bacterial pathogen group A streptococcus, the causative agent of strep throat. One of the fundamental questions is why some streptococcal strains cause pharyngitis, whereas other strains cause skin infections like impetigo. In other studies, the role of streptococcal infection as a trigger for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders, such as Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, is being investigated. Dr. Bessen collaborates with investigators at the Institute for Genome Sciences in Baltimore and at Yale University.
Doris L. Bucher, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology, oversees the laboratory that develops high-yield reassortant strains for the production of the world’s annual supply of influenza vaccine—some 400 million doses worldwide. Each year’s vaccine is different, containing the three strains that health officials believe are most likely to emerge during the subsequent flu season. This year, the strain created by Dr. Bucher’s lab—NYMC X-175C—comprises the H3N2 component that will go into the influenza vaccine, with 145 million doses destined for the U.S.
Dana G. Mordue Ph.D., assistant professor, studies the model intracellular protozoa Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. In particular, the group is investigating novel molecular mechanisms used by this intracellular pathogen to subvert the host innate immune response and to adapt to changes in the microenvironment during infection. Dr. Mordue’s team utilizes genetic and global microarray-based approaches to identify parasite genes that are differentially regulated by the host’s innate immune response during infection.
Catherine B. Small, M.D., associate professor of medicine and medical director of the HIV program, performs clinical immunology research in the fields of sinusitis and nasal polyposis, studying the immunological mechanisms associated with these diseases and developing new therapeutic approaches. She also studies aging and HIV infection, including immunologic differences between younger and older persons with HIV and determining the most appropriate anti-retroviral regimen in the aging HIV population.
Ira Schwartz, Ph.D., and Felipe Cabello, M.D., of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology collaborate with Gary Wormser, M.D., Raymond Dattwyler, M.D., Robert Nadelman, M.D., and John Nowakowski, M.D., faculty members in the Department of Medicine, in the study of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.