Immune response to Helicobacter pylori
Projects in Dr. Algood's lab focus on pathogen - host interactions in chronic infections and during chronic inflammation. Her main model system is Helicobacter pylori infection. Helicobacter pylori is a Gram-negative pathogen which can chronically colonize the human stomach and lead to adverse disease outcomes such as peptic ulcers or gastric cancer. Her projects investigate how T cell cytokines influence gastric epithelial cells responding to infection but also even more broadly how T cell cytokines activate other cells to protect the epithelial cells and the mucosal barrier they maintain. Dr. Algood's research utilizes H. pylori as a model mucosal pathogen, but her long-term research interests lie in understanding the balance between the mucosal immune responses, pathogens, and normal flora. While immune responses may be necessary to control bacterial colonization at the mucosal surfaces, the immune response must also be well controlled to maintain epithelial cell integrity and to control infiltration of other potentially damaging immune cells. Th17-driven immune responses have been implicated in pro-inflammatory activity and induction of chronic inflammation; she would like to better understand how the Th17 response is balanced. Moreover, since the inflammatory/immune response is not sufficient to clear the infection, Dr. Algood's laboratory is beginning studies to investigate how the bacteria persist while combated with the stresses of the immune response.