Wesley C. Van Voorhis
The laboratory is engaged in studying the pathogenesis of and immune response to chronic infections by Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas' disease), Treponema pallidum (Syphilis), Chlamydia trachomatis (pelvic inflammatory disease), and Herpes simplex virus. With T. cruzi, we are studying: 1)virulence genes using genetic complementation of avirulent strains with DNA from virulent strains; 2)the effect of enhancing the immune response to T. cruzi infection by engineering the parasite to secrete cytokines such as IL-2 and gamma-interferon; 3)molecularly cloned surface antigens of T. cruzi that share epitopes with mammalian tissues damaged during T. cruzi infection and thus are possibly involved with autoimmune pathogenesis; and, 4)the regulatory mechanisms of gene expression of surface antigens expressed exclusively on mammalian forms of T. cruzi. With T. pallidum, C. trachomatis and H. simplex, we are studying the cytokines present in infected lesions by performing reverse transcriptase-PCR on RNA extracted from the lesions. These studies are helping to define the local immune response and immunogenesis of these important sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To perform the studies on STDs, we are collaborating with Sheila Lukehart, Walter Stamm and Dorothy Patton, and David Koelle and Larry Corey, who are all training faculty for the I.D. Fellows training grant.