Suzanne Lenhart, Mathematics, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Cristina Lanzas, Infectious Disease, North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh
Clostridium difficile is an anaerobic human pathogen that forms spores, produce toxins and resides in the gut. Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is an important hospital acquired infection that causes diarrhea, pseudomembranous colitis, and possibly death. In the last decade, the incidence and severity of C. difficile infection has increased at alarming rates throughout North America, especially in the elderly. In the latest report on antibiotic resistance threats in the United States released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2013, C. difficile was classified within the highest threat level of urgent.
Antimicrobial therapy is often a strong and independent risk factor for CDI because it disrupts the indigenous microbiota, which provides protection against C. difficile colonization. The gut microbiota provides protection against C. difficile colonization through both direct and indirect mechanisms. Direct mechanisms include competing for nutrients or producing bacteriocins that suppress C. difficile. Indirect mechanisms include interactions between gut microbiota and host that trigger immune responses against C. difficile.
We will develop and analyze mathematical models that account for the interactions between gut microbiota and C. difficile and the perturbation that antimicrobial therapy causes on the gut microbiota to investigate the following questions:
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