Microbiology and immunology are inextricably linked in the study of infectious diseases. Microbiology is the study of life and organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye and immunology is the branch of biomedical science that covers the study of all aspects of the immune system in all organisms. The microbiology and immunology disciplines often intersect as the immune sysem interacts with pathogenic microbes (infectious agents or germs) hence microbiology typically includes the study of the immune system. While viruses are not classed as living organisms they are studied as part of the field of microbiology. Below are some examples of the fields of microbiology and immunology at work at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology.
Center for Infectious Disease
In the Center for Infectious Disease at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, Alessandro Sette, Ph.D., and his laboratory are developing disease intervention strategies against a number of new and emerging infectious diseases. These include Influenza, arena viruses, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and smallpox. The laboratory is defining in chemical terms what murine, non-human primate and human immune system recognizes and uses this knowledge to measure and understand anti-pathogen immune responses. This approach is helping unlock the mysteries of how the body successfully battles infection,and conversely, how pathogens escape the immune system, causing the individual to succumb to disease. From this data, Sette and his team believe their research will lead to development of new therapeutic and prophylactic approaches to fighting infectious diseases.
The Mystery of the Dengue Virus Infection
A scientist at the La Jolla Institute, Sujan Shresta, Ph.D., and her team study the immunology of dengue virus (DEN), a globally important mosquito-borne human pathogen. Their biological research has validated the long-held and controversial hypothesis that antibodies - usually the "good guys" in the body's fight against viruses - instead contribute to severe dengue virus-induced disease. Dr. Shresta is credited with developing the world's first mouse model showing key aspects of human infection. Scientists had long complained that the lack of a good animal model hampered efforts to develop a first-ever dengue vaccine. Dr. Shresta said her group's ADE findings emphasize the importance of special caution in designing a dengue virus vaccine. "Researchers will have to be extremely careful to ensure that, under no conditions, will a dengue vaccine generate these subneutralizing antibody conditions," she said. "Otherwise, it could cause people to develop the severest and potentially lethal form of the disease -- dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome."— 2/19/2010 - San Diego 6 News in the Morning, Dengue Virus Breakthrough
Microbes and Natural Killer T Cells (NKT)
The field of microbiology is in its infancy compared to other biological disciplines and only about one percent of all microbe species on Earth have been studied. Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., and his team study T cells - white blood cells responsible for recognizing and responding to foreign invaders, such as microbes. The laboratory focuses on a subset of T cells, that recognize glycolipids, or combinations of sugar and fat. Their research seeks to investigate how these T cells, called natural killer T cells (NKT), survive, grow, and regulate other immune cell types.
Hilde Cheroutre, Ph.D., and her team are studying the development, function, and regulation of white blood cells, a type of T lymphocytes. The laboratory is investigating how the immune system provides protection at "interfaces," or places where the outside world comes in contact with the inside of the body, such as skin, lungs, mouth, and the largest surface of all, the intestine.