Point of Entry and Haven of Refuge
Vaccines offer the most cost-effective way to prevent infectious disease in humans and animals. Even so, disease agents that cause persistent infections like tuberculosis and HIV have developed new ways to bypass immune defences and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
As persistent infections remain a major challenge, controlling them requires new therapeutic approaches to disrupt these evasions while enhancing immune defences.
In his role as Canada Research Chair in Neonatal Mucosal Immunology, Dr. Philip Griebel is looking at immune defences in the small intestine of newborns. The intestine’s mucous membranes provide the first barrier to infection, with its immune cells the first to respond to any invasion. This response decides whether the disease agents are eliminated or become successful in establishing a persistent infection.
Through his research, Griebel found out that mucosal (mucous membrane) immune cells in newborns have a much greater ability to respond to vaccination than was previously thought.
He is building on this knowledge to see if immunotherapeutic strategies can be developed to prevent persistent infection by disease agents. To this end, his research calls for developing unique animal models and research tools to analyze the molecular workings of immune evasion.
Mucosal surfaces throughout the body serve as a point of entry for a wide variety of disease agents. Since these surfaces also share common defence mechanisms, developing immunotherapeutic strategies to prevent infection in the small intestine will have broad use in preventing disease agents seeking refuge at other sites in the body.