Monday, August 10, 2015

Dr. Kimberly Seed

Dr. Kimberley Seed joined the UM in the fall of 2014 as a new Assistant Professor in the department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Dr. Seed’s research aims to understand the impact of dynamic bacterial-viral interactions on pathogen evolution and epidemiology. Dr. Seed received her Ph.D. in Microbiology & Biotechnology from the University of Alberta where her research focused on the application of bacterial viruses (phages) as alternative therapeutic agents for antibiotic resistant members of the Burkholderia cepacia complex. Her postdoctoral research at Tufts University School of medicine turned her focus towards the interactions of phages with pathogenic Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera. Studies of V. cholerae virulence and host immunity factors have defined our understanding of disease outcome and epidemic occurrence. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these interactions do not occur in isolation, they are embedded within and strongly affected by a complex microbial ecosystem, which includes predatory phages that specifically infect and kill V. cholerae. Phages are naturally co-ingested with V. cholerae and the extensive proliferation of V. cholerae in the human intestine during infection provides these predatory phages with an abundant susceptible host population on which to replicate. Accordingly, phages are also shed at appreciable numbers from infected patients, where like V. cholerae, they can be spread to others via fecal-oral transmission. Phages therefore have the potential to impact all aspects of the V. cholerae life cycle, including environmental persistence, transmission, infection and dissemination, on both a short and long-term evolutionary scale. Through international collaborations, Dr. Seed’s research aims to understand the molecular consequences of these interactions, which will ultimately provide insight into epidemic occurrence and displacement of specific pathogenic clones. Predatory interactions between phages and their bacterial hosts are likely favored in times of bacterial expansion as commonly occurs in diseased states. Although these interactions are seemingly absent from the healthy microbiota, it remains to be seen if other bacterial pathogens commonly encounter viral predation as V. cholerae does in the context of infection. Dr. Seed is eager to become more engaged with experimental, mathematical and computational researchers at UM with interests in microbial communities, pathogen evolution, and global health.