Role of Bacterial Biofilms in the Development of Crohn's Disease
Adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) strains are commonly isolated from Crohn's disease patients. These bacteria can form biofilms on the surface of the intestinal epithelial cells, allowing them to persist in the gut environment and evade the immune system. We are interested in understanding how biofilms promote AIEC fitness in the gut. Furthermore, we are investigating the mechanisms that regulate the formation of bacterial biofilms. Our overarching goal is to identify new targets for the antimicrobial therapy of Crohn's disease.
Investigating the Virulence of Crohn's Disease-Associated Bacteria
Several bacterial strains have been associated with the risk of developing Crohn's disease. This includes adherent-invasive strains of Escherichia coli (AIEC). Although this group of bacteria was shown to promote gut inflammation, the mechanisms underlying their virulence remain unknown. Our laboratory employs experimental evolution and metagenomics to map the genetic elements of bacterial virulence in the gut. The adaptations acquired by bacteria in vivo will inform us on the selection forces that shape the microbial communities in the gut during disease. By using state-of-the-art microscopy and biochemical assays, we will uncover the mechanisms used by bacteria to disrupt gut homeostasis and drive inflammation.