The research of Thomas E. Grys, Ph.D., is focused on the diagnosis of coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, and the development of new laboratory test methods to detect microbes and the diseases they cause. Dr. Grys' lab uses mass spectrometry to identify biomarkers of disease, as well as immunoassay and proteomic approaches to translate discoveries into clinical tools. Additional research includes the characterization of coccidioides clinical isolates to better understand the interplay of fungal biology and human disease.
- Diagnostic testing for valley fever. Dr. Grys collaborates with Dr. Douglas Lake at Arizona State University (ASU) to improve current methods and develop new methods to diagnose coccidioidomycosis, a fungal disease endemic to the Southwest U.S.
- Urinary tract infections. In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Shaopeng Wang at ASU, Dr. Grys is helping to develop a rapid test for urinary pathogens. A rapid test could assist health care providers in making informed decisions about how to treat a patient with urinary tract infection symptoms. While the method employs machine learning and artificial intelligence, the goal is to have a low-cost analyzer that can be used in a clinic setting or doctor's office.
- Digital health and near-patient testing. Dr. Grys has invented a new specimen collection device that enables easier near-patient testing. He collaborates to explore new models of care that employ digital health tools and reliable rapid testing and ways to make high-value care less expensive and more accessible.
Significance to patient care
In some areas of the desert of the Southwestern U.S., valley fever is the cause of 10% to 30% of community-acquired pneumonia. Unfortunately, many patients who visit a health care facility with valley fever will be treated with antibacterial medicines. These medicines are ineffective for this fungal disease. The primary diagnostic test uses a blood sample to identify antibodies against the fungus, but antibodies may not be detectable for several weeks after the onset of symptoms. This means that the patient may require several trips to the clinic, different lab tests and a delay in appropriate treatment. Dr. Grys hopes to develop tests that are simple to perform and provide an accurate result for valley fever at the first appointment.
Urinary tract infections are one of the most common infections, yet getting a good culture result can be difficult because urine samples may become contaminated during collection. By the time the results are reported about 2 to 3 days after collection, the patient has already been on treatment. The collaboration of Dr. Grys and Dr. Wang aims to produce an inexpensive instrument that could provide the information needed to choose the right antibiotics the first time, without such a delay.
- Member, Fungal Diagnostics Laboratory Consortium, 2019-present.
- Microbiology Block leader, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, 2017-present.
- Editorial board member, Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 2015-present.
- Diplomate, American Board of Medical Microbiology, 2008-present.
- 40 Under Forty, American Society for Clinical Pathology, 2017.
- Fellow, New Generation Program for Scientific Teaching, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2004-2005.