Manuela Raffatellu, MD
Photo: Manuela Raffatellu



Elected 2019

The main goal of my research is to understand the complex interplay between gut pathogens, mucosal immunity, and the gut microbiota, with the long-term goal of discovering therapeutic targets for controlling infection. Mucosal surfaces are often the first interface between the host, the commensal microbiota and pathogenic microorganisms. Among the most complex of these environments is the gut mucosa, where trillions of bacteria (the gut microbiota) coexist with the host in a mutually beneficial equilibrium. Infection with enteric pathogens like Salmonella disrupts this equilibrium by causing intestinal inflammation, a response that suppresses the growth of the commensal microbiota and favors the growth of Salmonella by several mechanisms. My research has largely focused on understanding how the mucosal response to infection is orchestrated, and how pathogens evade these responses. Infection with Salmonella results in the upregulation of antimicrobial proteins that inhibit bacterial growth by limiting the availability of essential nutrients, including metal ions, in a process termed “nutritional immunity”. In my lab, we study the mechanisms by which Salmonella evades nutritional immunity and acquires metal ions in the inflamed gut, allowing this pathogen to successfully compete with the microbiota for these essential nutrients. We also investigate mechanisms by which members of the gut microbiota provide colonization resistance to Salmonella and to other mucosal pathogens. Additionally, we study the host response to mucosal pathogens (cytokines, chemokines), as well as the mechanisms of virulence employed by mucosal pathogens like Salmonella to evade these antimicrobial responses.