Our environment contains a great variety of infectious microbes – viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and multicellular parasites. These can cause disease, and if they multiply unchecked they will eventually kill their host. Most infections in normal individuals are short-lived and leave little permanent damage. This is due to the immune system, which combats infectious agents. Since micro-organisms come in many different forms a wide variety of immune responses are required to deal with each type of infection. On the other hand, there are many beneficial commensal micro-organisms, which compete effectively with many potential pathogens.
Concerning immune responses our research is currently focused on mechanisms and activities controlling the killing of micro-organisms by phagocytosis and complement. Moreover, the effect of antibiotics, other antimicrobial agents and toxins on the live/dead status of micro-organisms are studied. Human and fish are the principal hosts of our studies. We develop new methods employing luminescence, fluorescence and flow cytometry for various aspects of host-microbe interactions. We collaborate with numerous national and international laboratories.
As an example of practical application of our results, we have developed the first flow cytometric bacterial infection kit ever incorporating the quantitative analysis of several cell surface receptors on neutrophils, monocytes and B-lymphocytes, which can be used to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections within a 1 h time-frame. We propose that the kit in question will be useful in assisting physicians to ascertain whether antibiotic treatment is required, thus limiting unnecessary antimicrobial usage. Several patents have been applied.