Department Researcher Marco Salemi, Ph.D., is awarded a grant to study infections in Florida and will be published in one of the most highly regarded journals in bioinformatics.

Marco Salemi, Ph.D.

Recently, University of Florida Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine Associate Professor and Researcher Marco Salemi, Ph.D., was awarded a grant from the  Florida Department of Health for a project titled, “Whole Genome Sequencing of Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W135 Isolates Belonging to a Clone Emerging in Florida.” The grant was awarded so Dr. Salemi and his team can study infections in Florida, such as Neisseria meningitidis (or meningococcus), a bacterium that can cause meningitis and other forms of meningococcal disease, including the life-threatening sepsis, meningococcemia.

N. meningitidis is a major cause of illness and death during childhood in industrialized countries. Dr. Salemi and his team will characterize the genetic diversity of the bacterial strains circulating in Florida, which is essential information for the Department of Health to be able to develop prevention and intervention campaign state-wide.

Dr. Salemi and some of his colleagues (M. M Norström, Nazle M. Veras, W. Huang, M. C. F. Prosperi, J. Cook, W. Hartogensis, F. M. Hecht, A. C. Karlsson) are also having their paper, “Baseline CD4+ T cell counts correlates with HIV-1 synonymous rate in HLA-B*5701 subjects with different risk of disease progression,” published in an upcoming issue of PLOS Computational Biology, the official peer-reviewed journal of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) and one of the top journals in the study of bioinformatics.

The following paragraph is excerpted from the paper:

“HIV-1 infection is characterized by considerable variability in the rate of progression to AIDS among patients with different genetic background. The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) B*5701 is the host factor most strongly associated with slow HIV-1 disease progression. By analyzing HIV evolution in several patients – all carrying the (HLA) B*5701 allele clinically and followed for many years – with advanced computational biology techniques we found a highly significant association between lower viral replication rate and higher CD4+ T cell counts at baseline (that is, the number of CD4 T cells within the first 10-11 weeks after primary infection). Essentially, this proves that a higher level of CD4 T cells during early infection will result in a better control of viral replication and result in longer time before the development of AIDS even in the absence of therapy. The finding provides a potential model to explain differences in risk of disease progression among individuals carrying this allele and may have important translational impact on clinical practice, since viral replication rates, could be used as a novel evolutionary marker of disease progression.”

The Department is proud of and cordially congratulates Dr. Salami on his recent achievements.

Well done!