David O. Wood, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair
Phone: (251) 460-6324
FAX: (251) 460-7269
dowood@southalabama.edu 

 

Genetic Analysis of Rickettsia

woodsmall[1].jpgDr. David O. Wood, Professor, received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the Medical College of Georgia in 1978. He performed his postdoctoral study at the Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. David Wood has been honored with a Research Career Development Award and a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health. He has served as President of the Southeastern Branch of the American Society for Microbiology and the American Society for Rickettsiology. Dr. Wood has served as a member of the Bacteriology and Mycology Study Section of the National Institutes of Health.

My research is focused on the obligate intracellular parasitic bacterium, Rickettsia prowazekii. This organism is the etiologic agent of epidemic typhus. Other members of this genus are the agents responsible for Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and scrub typhus. Because all of the rickettsiae are associated with arthropod vectors, such as the human body louse or ticks that transmit the rickettsiae to humans, the potential for spread remains and these diseases continue to pose a serious health threat worldwide. The rickettsiae are also of interest due to their unusual biology. These organisms grow in, and only in, the cytosol of host cells. Instead of being enclosed within a vacuole, these organisms rapidly escape into the cytosol where they grow until the number of rickettsiae becomes so great that the cell bursts releasing hundreds of infectious bacteria. How R. prowazekii exploits the intracellular environment is a primary focus of our work.

Our current research efforts are directed toward refining a genetic system for R. prowazekii and using this system to examine rickettsial gene function. The ability to manipulate rickettsial genes and create defined mutants assists in identifying those genes that are important in the invasion and destruction of human cells. In addition, selected mutants are being characterized and evaluated for use as attenuated vaccines. Such studies will permit us to address important questions about these unique human pathogens and provide basic knowledge about intracellular parasitism.

 

Recent Publications 

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