The Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory has a long history of education and innovation in vitro and in vivo investigations of unique antimicrobial therapies, novel patterns of antimicrobial resistance, emerging pathogens, mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance, and, most recently, biofilm-mediated infections. Culture-based methods, molecular techniques, animal models, and human studies are used.
The origins of research in infectious diseases at Mayo can be traced to Dr. Wallace E. Herrell who, among other things, established the clinical efficacy and pharmacokinetics of penicillin. In 1943, he was the first to describe successful penicillin therapy for sulfonamide-resistant gonococcal arthritis (WE Herrell, EN Cook, L Thompson, Journal of the American Medical Association 1943;122:289-92). Dr. Herrell was also the last first assistant to Dr. Charles Mayo. Dr. Joseph E. Geraci later performed a series of landmark studies on bacterial endocarditis and was one of the first to work with the antibiotic vancomycin. The physical laboratory itself was founded circa 1981 by Dr. Walter R. Wilson who, among other accomplishments, worked with experimental animal models of endocarditis. Subsequent to Dr. Wilson, the laboratory was under the directorship of Dr. James M. Steckelberg, current Chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases.
The laboratory’s present day focus is on microbial biofilms. Biofilms are a unique state of existence preferentially employed by microorganisms in most environments; they are involved in two thirds of human infections, rendering them of enormous public health relevance. Biofilms protect microorganisms from environmental stresses, currently available antimicrobial agents and host immune defenses. Understanding mechanisms of biofilm formation will enable novel therapeutic and preventive strategies for the recalcitrant diseases (e.g., prosthetic joint infection, endocarditis, catheter-associated infection) with which biofilms are associated.
We have a series of studies ongoing wherein we are developing novel diagnostics for orthopaedic device-related infection. We are characterizing mechanisms of biofilm formation in the recently recognized pathogen, Staphylococcus lugdunensis. And, we are investigating novel approaches to the therapy of biofilm-mediated infections.