Seminar will be held on April 24 from 10-11am in Room 1212C. For more information, please contact GeneLab or Stephen Williams.
LSU researcher investigates the effects of second-hand smoke in bacterial infectious diseases:
BATON ROUGE―In December 2013, the Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) renewed a grant with the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine for $108,000 annually for two years to study the effects of second-hand smoke. Ritwij Kulkarni, MSc, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, studies how smoke induces the virulence and antibiotic resistance of pathogenic bacteria. In Louisiana, 20.5% of the adult population (aged 18+ years)—over 675,000 individuals—are current cigarette smokers. Across all states, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults ranges from 9.3% to 26.5%; Louisiana ranks 37th in the U.S. While previous studies have shown that exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke directly affects your immune system, Dr. Kulkarni is looking specifically at the effect of smoke on deadly pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Dr. Kulkarni hypothesizes that, since these pathogens inhabit our upper airways, they experience our exposures to environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, and thus are directly affected by these pollutants. “Exposure to smoke makes these bacteria stronger and more difficult to treat,” said Dr. Kulkarni. “Staphylococcus aureus is known to form biofilms, which are communities of bacteria contained within a protective membrane. The bacteria inside a biofilm are resistant to our immune defenses, as well as antibiotics, and smoke exposure increases biofilm production.” Currently, Dr. Kulkarni’s research is focused on identifying novel virulent genes that are expressed at a higher level after exposure to smoke. This will give us a better idea about how smoke can make pathogenic bacteria stronger and thus more resistant to antibiotics. This will also help us understand why the respiratory infections in smokers are more difficult to treat. It is well documented that smoke affects the human immune defenses and makes it harder for our bodies to fight bacteria. We are now beginning to understand that smoke may make the pathogenic bacteria hyper virulent as well. Thus, cigarette smoking is a double hit to our health. “An important aspect of this research is that most of it can be extended to other forms of smoke, such as vehicular exhaust, smoke from biofuels and smoke from wood burning. Any smoke― firsthand or secondhand―can be harmful,” said Dr. Kulkarni. This is one of four grants awarded by the FAMRI to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine to investigate the effects of smoke in pulmonary diseases. Other principal investigators working in this research area are Drs. Samithamby Jeyaseelan, professor; Shanshan Cai, research assistant professor; and Sanjay Batra, research assistant professor. Dr. Arthur Penn, director of the Inhalation Research Facility and professor of toxicology in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, is a collaborator in the research.