The Romo lab has a variety of interests revolving around fungal biology in the gastrointestinal tract.
Research areas in the lab are briefly described below.
The contributions of commensal fungi to human health and disease in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are not well understood. Candida species such as C. glabrata are opportunistic pathogenic fungi and common colonizers of the human GI tract. They have been shown to affect the host immune system, interact with the gut microbiome and pathogenic microorganisms, and impact bacterial diversity after antibiotic treatment. Therefore, Candida species are expected to play key ecological roles in the host GI tract. The Romo laboratory studies the roles and impact of fungal colonizers of the GI tract during infection by bacterial pathogens such as Clostridioides difficile. C. difficile is an anaerobic, Gram-positive, spore-forming, and toxin-producing bacterial pathogen able to cause mild (antibiotic-associated diarrhea) to potentially fatal GI disease (pseudomembranous colitis, toxic megacolon) primarily in those who are elderly, have been hospitalized, and/or received a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Importantly, antibiotic treatment also leads to an expansion of fungi in the GI, setting the stage for transkingdom interactions. To characterize these fungal-bacterial interactions and their impact on disease outcome, we use a combination of murine, human derived cell line, and in vitro models. The knowledge obtained from our studies will uncover novel fungal biology and inform the development of novel therapeutics such as fecal transplants and antimicrobials.
Fungal-bacterial interactions in the GI
We are interested in characterizing the interactions between fungi and bacteria that take place in the gastrointestinal tract of humans during disease states.
We use a variety of models including:
1. Murine models of fungal colonization and bacterial infection. 2. In vitro co-culturing planktonic and biofilm models. 3. Human derived cell models.
Human derived cell models
We use human derived cell models to characterize polymicrobial interactions and host responses, biofilm architecture, and responses to antimicrobial treatment in the presence of host influence.
Fungi in anaerobic environments
Fungal colonizers experience anaerobic environments in the human host. We are interested in understanding fungal biology (e.g. morphology, metabolic capabilities, response to environmental insults) during anaerobiosis.
C. difficile is a bacterial pathogen that is highly dependent on the host microbiota and its metabolic output. We are interested in characterizing its biofilm forming capabilities, their responses to environmental insults, and impact on disease outcomes.
We are interested in identifying novel small molecules with activity against polymicrobial biofilms.