• 876
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20112024

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Personal profile

Research interests

Bacterial infections are a leading cause of infant death worldwide. At birth, infants are colonized with bacteria from their mother and environment. Collectively, this bacterial population is called the microbiome, and it is vital for healthy human development. Preterm infants hospitalized in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) are the most susceptible to bacterial infections because of underdeveloped skin and gut barriers and other immature organ systems. Because bacterial infection affects up to 40% of preterm infants, antibiotics are frequently given for suspected or confirmed infection. When infants show signs of infection (sepsis), their blood is cultured to look for bacteria, and they are started on antibiotics. While awaiting results, infants are treated with antibiotics targeted at common causes of bloodstream infection, but this approach has negative consequences. First, many bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to being killed by the chosen antibiotics. Second, when antibiotics are given unnecessarily when no bacteria grow in culture, antibiotics are associated with increased likelihood of death. Finally, antibiotics disrupt the normal development of the infant gut microbiome and immune system and increase the abundance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and risk of further episodes of sepsis.

My objective is to understand how disruption of the infant microbiome can result in serious bacterial infections. I want to answer the questions: why are some infants more susceptible to severe infections than others and can we predict who is at the greatest risk? My laboratory will integrate multi-omics modeling of informative perinatal and infant cohorts with mechanistic characterization in animal models to generate clinically actionable personalized microbiome-risk prediction and antibiotic stewardship in infants.

Mentoring

My mentorship goal is to help each trainee achieve their professional potential. I believe that the best contributions to science occur when people of all backgrounds, races, genders, abilities, and beliefs contribute their unique perspective. Accordingly, I am actively committed to mentoring a diverse trainee pool and will not discriminate based on age, color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, heritage, and ability. Furthermore, I am committed to increasing the population of underrepresented persons in science and academics. I will not tolerate racist, sexist, or bigoted language of any type and promise to actively discourage and interrupt language and behaviors of this type. Mentorship is also a bidirectional contract, and I firmly believe that honesty and openness are necessary in both directions. If I am not providing you what you need, please tell me! Please see https://djschwartzlab.wustl.edu/lab-life/ for my core mentorship tenets!

Available to Mentor:

  • PhD/MSTP Students

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