Infectious Diseases – Scholarship and Research

Scholarly Activities

Scholarship is a vital part of Pediatric Infectious Diseases faculty and fellow activities and duties. The Pediatric Division of Infectious Diseases is dedicated to maintaining an environment of inquiry and an active research component is an integral part of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases training program. Scholarship is defined as one of the following:

  • The scholarship of discovery, as evidenced by peer-reviewed funding or publication of original research in peer-reviewed journals.
  • The scholarship of dissemination, as evidenced by review articles or chapters in textbooks.
  • The scholarship of application, as evidenced by the publication or presentation at local, regional, or national professional and scientific society meetings, for example, case reports or clinical series.

Opportunities for Research

Research activities are an important part of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Training Program. All fellows will devote a minimum of 18 months to research activities. Understanding the basic science underlying pediatric infectious diseases and related disciplines is encouraged throughout the fellowship. This is accomplished through trainee presentations at research seminars, review at Journal Club of basic research articles and attendance at basic research seminars in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology, the Department of Pediatrics, and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

All trainees participate in a major clinical, epidemiological, and/or laboratory research project during their fellowship. After beginning the program, all fellows will identify a faculty mentor. Research faculty can be drawn from division members in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, but also from Departments of Virology, Microbiology and Immunology, and Pharmacy at the University of Connecticut.

Fellows will be expected to partake in one or two additional smaller research efforts that would typically involve a quality-improvement aspect of systems-based practice or practice-based learning and improvement. A specific project will be identified in the area of antimicrobial stewardship with an expectation of submission as an abstract, the second will be in an area of the fellow’s choosing.

The Spirochetal Research Labs

The Spirochetal Research Labs co-directed by Justin Radolf, M.D., and Juan Salazar, M.D., M.P.H., received an award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the NIH to develop a vaccine for syphilis. The international study team is comprised of researchers from UConn School of Medicine, Connecticut Children’s, the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, UNC Project-Malawi, CIDEIM in Cali, Colombia, Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, and Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China. Three projects comprise the Cooperative Research Center.

The first builds upon research conducted by Dr. Radolf with Melissa Caimano, Ph.D, a scientist at UConn Health and member of the Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Project 1 will select leading vaccine candidates based on bioinformatics, biophysical analysis, and structural modeling, regardless of whether they induce antibodies during the course of syphilitic infection in humans.

The second project is directed by Dr. Salazar and Arlene Seña, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. Project 2 includes Kelly Hawley, Ph.D, a talented research scientist in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Connecticut Children’s. It will map the global diversity of various Treponema pallidum strains and determine outer membrane protein variation in preparation for a proper vaccine formulation.

The third project leverages technology developed for HIV research at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute. Armed with knowledge of the structures of the syphilis bacterium outer-membrane proteins generated at UConn Health and Connecticut Children’s, the Duke team, led by Anthony Moody, M.D., can identify B cells that produce antibodies directed against extracellular loops.

Active Research

  • Global sequence and surface anti- genic diversity of Treponema pallidum outer membrane proteins.
  • Identification of Genes Required by Leptospira interrogans for Mammalian Host Adaptation and/or Persistence in the Rat Model.
  • RpoS Regulation of Borrelia burgdorferi Genes in Vivo.
  • Borrelia burgdorferi oligopeptide (Opp) Transporter Control of Cellular Homeostasis and Growth.

Selected Publications

Mokha JS, Davidovics ZH, Maas K, Caimano MJ, Matson A. Fecal microbiomes in premature infants with and without parenteral nutrition-associated cholestasis. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2019 Aug; 69(2):224-230.

Cervantes JL, Oak E, Garcia J, Liu H, Lorenzini PA, Batra D, Chhabra A, Salazar JC, Roca X. Vitamin D modulates human macrophage response to mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA. Tu- berculosis (Edinb). 2019 May 3. doi: 10.1016/j.tube.2019.04.021. [Epub ahead of print]

Ryan JM, Feder HM. Dog licks baby. Baby gets Pasteurella multocida meningitis. Lancet. 2019; 393(10186):e41.

Alhamdi JR, Peng T, Al-Naggar IM, Hawley KL, Spiller KL, Kuhn LT. Controlled M1-to-M2 transition of aged macrophages by calcium phosphate coatings. Biomaterials. 2019 Mar; 196:90- 99. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2018.07.012. Epub 2018 Jul 17. PMID: 30075952.

Book Chapters
Radolf JD, Tramont E, Salazar JC. Venereal syphilis. In: Man- dell, Douglas and Bennett’s principles and practice of infectious diseases. 9th ed. Elsevier; 2019.

Bennett NJ, Girotto JE, Murray T. Fungal pneumonia. In: Doma- chowske J. Introduction to clinical infectious diseases: a prob- lem-based approach. 2019 Feb.

Stimes GT, Girotto JE. Applying pharmacodynamics and antimi- crobial stewardship to pediatric preseptal and orbital cellulitis. Paediatr Drugs. 2019 Oct 14. doi: 10.1007/s40272-019-00357- 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Nielsen LE, Forrester JB, Girotto JE, Dassner AM, Humphries R. One-size fits all? Application of susceptible-dose dependent breakpoints to pediatric patients and laboratory reporting. J Clin Microb. 2019 Oct 30. pii: JCM.01446-19. doi: 10.1128/ JCM.01446-19. [Epub ahead of print]

Tong K, Girotto JE. Vaccinating against pneumococcal disease: covering more than just pneumonia. Conn Med. 2019 Aug; 83:357-361.

Motos A, Avery LM, DeRonde KJ, Mullane EM, Kuti JL, Nicolau DP. Where should antibiotic gradient diffusion strips be crossed to assess synergy? A comparison of the standard method with a novel method using steady-state antimicrobial concentrations. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2019 May; 53(5):698-702.

Caimano MJ, Groshong AM, Belperron A, Mao J, Hawley KL, Luthra A, Graham DE, Earnhart CG, Marconi RT, Bockenstedt LK, Blevins JS, Radolf JD. The RpoS gatekeeper in borrelia burgdorferi: an invariant regulatory scheme that promotes spirochete persistence in reservoir hosts and niche diversity. Front Microbiol. 2019; 10:1923.