Makedonka Mitreva, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
There are two main threads to my current research.
We study neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). There are 17 parasitic and bacterial infections that cause blindness, anemia, malnutrition, growth and development stunting in children, and severe morbidity and mortality during pregnancy in women. These infections can also increase the risk of co-infection with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Their impact on health and socioeconomic status (mainly in the developing world) result in promoting and maintaining poverty. As the United Nations secretary general recently stated, “Poverty reduction and the elimination of NTDs go hand-in-hand.”
Our work translates basic science advances in genomics into practical knowledge that contributes to control or elimination of helminth NTDs (including hookworm, ascaris and whipworm, and flukes, including major biological carcinogens). My lab takes advantage of next-generation genomic and computational approaches to study:
i) taxonomically restricted and differentially represented pathways in parasites and their potential as targets for drug development,
ii) helminth genetic variations in natural infections,
iii) host response to parasite infections,
iv) identification of candidate antigens for vaccine or serodiagnostis,
v) molecular characterization of understudied parasite of global importance.
Through comparative pan-omics systems biology analysis we have provided fundamental molecular information for these devastating parasites of major medical and global importance accelerating both basic and translational research.
The second area of my research is focused on the human microbiome. My current efforts are to use targeted and shotgun sequencing of metagenomic communities of microbes to understand their biology. To study metagenomic communities through shotgun sequencing, advances in computational approaches and tools are needed, therefore we develop new and improve existing computational tools that will allow precise identification and comparison of taxonomic structure and functional capability of microbial communities in a robust fashion. We use those tools to identify genes, pathways and organisms within communities and use this information to determine what is common and variant among healthy and disease states, leading to identification of members or functions that are associated with different physiologic disease states.