The Bernice Barbour
Communicable Disease

Creating a synergy of
scientific thought...

Major Areas of Research

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Updated 5/18/04

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A New Approach

The Bernice Barbour Communicable Disease Laboratory (BBCDL) has employed a new and innovative approach to the conduct of infectious disease research. Rather than follow the traditional course of studying specific diseases in isolation, the BBCDL provides a research umbrella under which medical scientists from varying disciplines can work together as a team to study the range of mechanisms utilized by pathogenic microbes to cause disease throughout the world. These researchers are working together to apply the concept of "comparative medicine" to the study of the common mechanisms utilized by disease producing microbes of all species.

Major Areas of Research

The BBCDL's work focuses on three critical areas of infectious disease research:

1. Microorganism's life outside the host.
- Dr. Rob Atwill
Our investigators are attempting to determine those factors which promote the survival, reproduction and transport of infectious agents within the global environment. Why do certain infectious agents appear and cause disease in a specific area at a given time? How do these agents manage to transport themselves from one area of the world to another? What makes one microbe more dangerous than another? The answers to these and other questions must be found in order to control the spread of disease through our environment.

2. How pathogenic microorganisms invade humans and animals to cause disease.
- Dr. Barbara Byrne
Our researchers are investigating those specific invasion mechanisms common to differing groups of pathogens that are critical for disease production. They are also trying to determine why certain strains within the same family of microbes are more potent in their ability to cause disease than others. The delineation of specific infectious processes like these undoubtedly will lead to the implementation of new and more effective methods to control disease.

3. Defense mechanisms utilized by mammals against microorganisms.
- Dr. Johanna Watson / Dr. James MacLachlan
Susceptible human and animal hosts defend themselves against invading pathogens through a complex system of immunological and inflammatory processes. Our investigators are developing a better understanding of how these process are initiated and implemented. This information will establish why pathogenic microbes can successfully evade the host defense mechanisms and cause disease while the majority of environmental microorganisms cannot. Once the interactions between host and invaders are defined, scientists can then devise methods by which the body's own physiological processes can be utilized to fight infectious disease.