Dr. Barbara E. Murray
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Internal Medicine - Infectious Diseases
This laboratory's broad interests involve the genetic and biochemical mechanisms of pathogenicity and of resistance to antibiotics, particularly of enterococci (e.g., Enterococcus faecalis and E. faecium). Recent acquisition of new antibiotic resistance traits have led these organisms to be called "super bugs" because of the paucity of any known effective antimicrobials. This laboratory described the first isolate of enterococci producing beta-lactamase, described the first gentamicin resistance transposon in these organisms (a property which has important consequences for therapy of enterococcal endocarditis), and identified the mechanism for the intrinsic resistance of E. faecalis to Synercidâ, an antibiotic approved in 1999 for vancomycin-resistant E. faecium. Work in pathogenicity has also focused on enterococci because they are important causes of endocarditis and hospital-acquired infections. Current projects, funding by NIH, involve defining the genetic basis for adherence of enterococci to host tissues such as extracellular matrix proteins, generating isogenic mutants for studies of virulence and pathogenicity, testing antibodies for protective capabilities in different animal models, investigating biofilm formation, and defining the mechanism of resistance of E. faecium to phagocytosis by white blood cells. Procedures routinely used include genomic sequencing, protein purification, ELISAs, Western blot analysis, cloning, mutagenesis, microarray analyses, RT-PCR, and other molecular biology techniques, as well as extracellular matrix protein adherence assays, biofilm assays, fluorescent microscopy, transcytosis assays, and animal models (urinary tract infections, peritonitis and endocarditis) for evaluation of mutants and for evaluation of immunization efficacy. There are active collaborations between the Division of Infectious Diseases, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and the Center for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases-IBT, and shared graduate students with faculty in these areas. Dr. Murray is the Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and of the Center for the Study of Emerging and Re-Emerging Pathogens. Work in the Center provides a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of bacterial pathogenesis, from clinical issues to details of gene expression and protein function.