Microbiology and Immunology News 


Huggins Medical Student Research Awards Announced

The Clyde G. “Sid” Huggins Medical Student Research Awards honor the memory of Dr. Huggins, who served as the first dean of students for the USA College of Medicine.

Jordan Matthews Smith, a second-year student, was recognized for the best oral presentation, titled, "Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Type III Secretion System Effectors Influence Production of Cytotoxic Amyloid Species in the Lung of Infected Mice." Smith was sponsored by Dr. Jonathon Audia, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the USA College of Medicine and a member of the Center for Lung Biology.  Read story here.














July 13, 2018 - USA COM Partners with MCHD to Better Monitor Mosquito-Borne Viruses


The University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently partnered with the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) to screen mosquitoes and determine the presence of mosquito-borne viruses in the community.  Dr. Rayner and his lab at the LID are working with Dr. John McCreadie from the Biology Department to identify and test mosquitoes.  See full article.  See AL.com article.



January 30, 2018 - USA Researchers Targeting Preventable Blindness With Local Lions Clubs' Support

See Article












Mobile Lions Club President Todd L. Denison presents a check to Dr. Robert Lausch, professor emeritus of microbiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine and a member of the University Lions Club. The grant award will be used to fund vision research.


Dr. Robert Barrington presents during a luncheon in the Joseph Bitzer Conference Room.



January 12, 2018 - USA Researchers Develop Experimental Model to Further Understand Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

USA researchers Dr. Jonathon Audia (right) and Dr. Diego Alvarez (left) work in a lab on Jan. 10, 2018. They recently developed a model of bacterial sepsis and pneumonia that can aid in the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  For full article click here.




November 29, 2017 - Dr. Barrington Awarded 2017 COM Faculty Intramural Grants Program Research Award

See Article

 From left: Dr. Mark Taylor, Dr. Donna Cioffi, Dr. Mike Lin, Dr. Lawrence LeClaire and Dr. Robert Barrington

The University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently announced the recipients of the 2017 College of Medicine Faculty Intramural Grants Program Research Awards, which provides funds through an annual competition to five full-time basic science faculty members.   Each received one-year awards of up to $50,000.  See the full article with the link above.

Congratulations, Dr. Barrington!


November 17, 2017 - 11th Annual USA COM Research Forum




October 25, 2017 - USA Welcomes Dr. Jin H. Kim

Dr. Jin Hyun Kim recently was appointed assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  For full article click here.




October 1, 2017 - Dr. John Foster Retired

After 30 years of service to the University of South Alabama Department of Microbiology, Dr. John Foster hung up his lab coat as a full time faculty member.

 Dr. John W. Foster, Professor, received his Ph.D. in Microbiology from Hahnemann University College of Medicine (now part of Drexel University) in Philadelphia in 1979 and carried out his postdoctoral studies at Georgetown University.  Dr. Foster was honored in Who's Who in American Universities and Colleges in 1978, was named 1994 Hahnemann University Alumnus of the year, and received the 2007 Southeastern ASM branch “Robert Eagon Award” for accomplishments in microbial physiology.  He has served in the American Society for Microbiology as the Chair of Division K (Microbial Physiology and Metabolism) and as an invited ad hoc member of the Microbial Physiology and Bacterial Pathogenesis Study Sections for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  His scholarly work includes over 100 peer-reviewed articles, 4 editions of a textbook on microbial physiology (coauthored by Albert G. Moat and Michael P. Spector), 3 editions of a textbook for undergraduate majors entitled "Microbiology: An Evolving Science" coauthored by Joan Slonczewski, PhD, Kenyon College, Ohio, and a new textbook for Allied Health majors called "Microbiology: The Human experience".  Dr. Foster has mentored 14 doctoral students and 16 post-doctoral fellows in studies designed to reveal the molecular strategies used by bacterial pathogens to survive stress.

Microbiology: An Evolving Science http://books.wwnorton.com/books/webad.aspx?id=4294992872

Microbiology:The Human Experience http://books.wwnorton.com/books/webad.aspx?id=4294995827




September 13, 2017 - Dr. Jonathan Rayner Appointed Director of Laboratory of Infectious Diseases

Dr. Jonathan Rayner recently was appointed associate professor of microbiology and immunology and serves as director of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases (LID) at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.  For full article click here.




July 27 - 30, 2017 - ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators

Dr. John Foster attended the ASMCUE which was held in Denver, Colorado this year.  While there Dr. Foster was able to promote his new textbook, Microbiology: An Evolving Science.






July 28, 2017 - Summer Research Forum

After a summer of hard work by many Medical Students and Undergrad Students, we finally got to see the posters displaying the science conducted in various laboratories throughout the College of Medicine.


July 2017: Summer Undergrad Students Experience Research in Dr. Barrington and Dr. Audia's Labs
























Dr. Barrington's students experience Flow Cytometry.






May 15, 2017   Med School Watercooler:  Steffani Fitzpatrick Awarded National Travel Grant


Steffani Fitzpatrick, one of Microbiology and Immunology's basic medical science students, was awarded a National Eye Institute travel grant from the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).









 Steffani at ARVO presenting her poster.


 March 28, 2017   Med School Watercooler: What You Can Learn About A Heart Attack From A Microbiologist



Dr. Jon Audia, March 30th DSS speaker.




December 9, 2016  Med School Watercooler:  Tiffany Norton's Doctoral Dissertation



Tiffany Norton, one of Microbiology and Immunology's basic medical science students, defended her doctoral dissertation on December 9.  She is currently working as a postdoctoral research fellow in gynecological oncology at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, and she hopes to stay as close to lab work as possible throughout her career.


 Andrew Ferretti, another basic medical science student who has worked under Dr. Robert Barrington, defended his doctoral dissertation on the same day as Tiffany Norton.  Both Andrew and Tiffany were honored at a reception in the Joseph Bitzer Conference Room following the dissertations.  Andrew and his wife moved the next weekend to Boston, MA where he has taken a position as a post doc with the Harvard Medical School doing research.




August 17, 2016  Med School Watercooler:  USA Lions Club Hosts Kickoff Run for Sight



Dr. Rob Barrington was one of the organizers of the 4th annual Kickoff Run for Sight.  The run is one of the major fund-raisers for the USA Lions Club each year.  The University Lions Club supports the USA Lions Eye Research Institute at the USA College of Medicine as well as other charitable activities.




August 11, 2016  Med School Watercooler: USA Mourns Loss of Dr. Herbert Winkler



Dr. Herbert H. Winkler, former Vice-Chair of Microbiology and Emeritus Professor, passed away on August 2, 2016.  Dr. Winkler served our department from 1978 until his retirement in 2006.  



August 3, 2016  Med School Watercooler:  USA Graduate Student Publishes Article in the Journal of Immunology



Andrew Ferretti is lead author of a study recently published in the Journal of Immunology titled "Autoantibody-Mediated Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis in Pasgrp-1 Deficient Mice.






May 11, 2016 Med School Watercooker: Dr. Barrington Collaboration on Dr. Gerthoffer NIH Grant


Dr. Robert Barrington is a collaborator for Dr. Gerthoffer's lab, along with Celsioun Corporation, in developing a new drug for the lungs.





January 21, 2016  Med School Watercooler:  9th Annual COM Research Forum Winners Announced



Dr. Qusai Al Abdallah and Tiffany Norton (post doc and graduate student in Dr. Fortwendel's lab) were travel award winners when the University of South Alabama College of Medicine hosted its 9th annual Research Forum on Dec. 4, 2015.





November 4, 2015  Med School Watercooler:  Department of Defense Awards DxDiscovery Inc. and USA College of Medicine $1M for Research


This award will enable Dr. Mary Burtnick and Dr. Paul Brett to assess the protective capacity of several carbohydrate-specific monoclonal antibodies that have recently been generated in collaboration with DxDiscovery.


July 29, 2015 Med School Watercooler:  Dr. Barrington Receives Grant Award from American Lung Association



Dr. Robert Barrington, Assistant Professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology, was recently awarded a two-year research grant totaling $80,000 from the American Lung Association.




June 4, 2015 Med School Watercooler:  Patricia Couling Retirement Reception



Patricia Couling retires after 23 years of service.  A reception was held in her honor at the faculty club.




June 2, 2015 Tiffany Norton, who recently was awarded a travel grant from the American Society for Microbiology, presented her poster at this year's ASM 115th General Meeting in New Orleans, May 30 - June 2, 2015.  Tiffany won an Outstanding Student Poster Award for her poster titled "The Aspergillus fumigatus farnesyltransferase beta-subunit, Ram 1, regulates Ras protein localization, conidial viability, and intifungal susceptibility.  The poster can be viewed in the hallway of the Microbiology Department.


April 28, 2015 MedSchool Watercooler: Basic Medical Science Graduate Student in Dr. Jarrod Fortwendel's laboratory Tiffany Norton Awarded American Society for Microbiology Travel Grant


Tiffany Norton, a basic medical science student at the University of South Alabama, recently was awarded a grant from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The grant will be used to assist with travel funds to this year's 2015 ASM general meeting in New Orleans.


April 23, 2015 MedSchool Watercooler: USA Graduate Student Andrew Ferretti to Present at Upcoming AAI Meeting



March 17, 2015  Tiffany S. Norton, a Basic Medical Science Graduate Student in Dr. Jarrod Fortwendel's laboratory, won the Novozymes Student Poster Prize on March 17, 2015 at The Twelfth International Aspergillus Meeting. The meeting is being held at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California. There were 100 posters presented by some very talented students and postdocs.

89. *The Aspergillus fumigatus farnesyltransferase beta-subunit, Ram1, regulates Ras protein localization, conidial viability and antifungal susceptibility.

Tiffany S. Norton, Rachel V. Lovingood, Qusai Al Abdallah, Jarrod R. Fortwendel.

University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL.

Post-translational prenylation mechanisms, including farnesylation and geranylgeranylation, mediate both subcellular localization and protein-protein interaction in eukaryotes. The farnesyltransferase (FT) enzyme complex is composed of two subunits: the alpha-subunit, an essential protein shared with the geranylgeranyltransferase complex; and a beta-subunit, termed Ram1. FT activity is an important mediator of Ras pathway signaling via control of Ras protein localization. Our previous data show that A. fumigatus RasA localizes primarily to the plasma membrane where it functions in processes controlling morphogenesis and virulence. However, the importance of FT activity to Ras protein function, filamentous fungal growth, and A. fumigatus virulence is currently unknown. To explore this, we generated an A. fumigatus deletion mutant lacking the FT beta-subunit (ram1KO). Conidial germination rate was reduced in the ram1KO mutant, with a concomitant reduction in conidial viability of 45%. Although no polarity defects of hyphae were apparent, the ram1KO mutant displayed reduced radial growth rate, an average increase in hyphal width of 26%, and altered nuclear positioning in growing hyphae. Furthermore, loss of ram1 resulted in resistance to triazole antifungal drugs such as voriconazole. Complementation of the ram1KO mutant with the ram1 gene (ram1KO+ram1) restored the wild-type phenotype for each of these processes. To define molecular mechanisms for Ram1-mediated processes, we generated strains expressing GFP-RasA in the ram1KO genetic background. The absence of ram1 resulted in mislocalization of RasA from the plasma membrane. Interestingly, mutation of RasA to enhance selectivity for geranylgeranylation as an alternative membrane targeting mechanism in the absence of Ram1 restored RasA plasma membrane localization but not radial growth. These data suggest that Ras-independent mechanisms are at least partially responsible for phenotypes exhibited by the ram1KO mutant. Together, these data point to a crucial role for the Ram1 farnesyltransferase in mediating A. fumigatus growth and antifungal susceptibility.


March 2, 2015, Dr. Robert Barrington was awarded an Early Career Faculty Travel Grant to attend the 2015 American Association of Immunologist [AAI] annual meeting.


March 2, 2015, Ph.D. candidate Andrew Ferretti, 4th year graduate student in Dr. Robert Barrington’s laboratory, had his work selected for an oral presentation at the IMMUNOLOGY 2015TM  meeting. In addition, Andrew received a 2015 AAI Trainee Abstract Award to support his participation at the meeting.


 Blueprint for the Future—Dr. David Wood, Dr. Mary Burtnick, Dr. Jonathon Audia and Dr. Paul Brett, make plans to develop a new biosafety lab with the NIH award.

The Laboratory of Infectious Diseases was designed so that research with highly infectious agents could be safely conducted. It is a free-standing, high containment laboratory, built according to NIH standards for a Biosafety Level-3 research unit. The Medical Science Building has laboratories and classrooms to accommodate both medical and graduate students.  The LID opened February of 2015.



Dr. Paul Brett Awarded $1.7 million by DTRA

April 21, 2014, Dr. Paul Brett, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was recently awarded $1,728,535 by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for his research involving biodefense and emerging infectious diseases. The award will cover a three-year study period.

According to Dr. Brett, the award will enable his lab to characterize the protective capacity of several promising vaccine candidates that they have developed for immunization against diseases caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei and Burkholderia mallei, the causative agents of melioidosis and glanders.



Dr. David O. Wood to Present at International Conference of Biocontainment Facilities

March 12, 2014, Dr. David Wood, professor and chair of the department of microbiology and immunology at the USA College of Medicine, will give a presentation at the 2014 International Conference of Biocontainment Facilities on April 10, 2014.



Dr. Fortwendel Awarded NIH Grant

March 5, 2014, Dr. Jarrod Fortwendel, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently was awarded a five-year research grant by the National Institutes of Health. The grant award totals $1,513,250.



USA Professor Co-Authors New Edition of Microbiology Textbook, “Microbiology: An Evolving Science” - Dr. John W. Foster -January 13, 2014



 Dr. Paul Brett, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was presented with two certificates of merit in recognition of best poster presentations at the 7th World Melioidosis Congress (WMC).



Dr. Audia Launches Interactive Biology Program at St. Luke's - September 25, 2013

Med School Watercooler Story and link to additional pictures




Lions Club International Foundation Grant Awarded to Vision Scientists - Lions/USA Eye Research Institute - August 28, 2013 



USA 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Terrence Tumpey, Ph.D.



Distinguished Alumni Award

Dr. Terrence Tumpey has established himself as a world-renowned expert on one of mankind's most devastating pathogens - the influenza virus. Under high biosafety levels, Dr. Tumpey examines the genetic requirements that determine how influenza adapts to different hosts and can be spread from one host to another.for example, from birds to humans. He traveled to Vietnam during the initial stages of the bird flu outbreak to isolate and subsequently analyze highly pathogenic influenza virus from poultry flocks.

Dr. Tumpey reconstructed the pandemic Spanish Influenza Virus that caused- the 1918 epidemic. This accomplishment provided insight into what genes made this virus so deadly, and it brought Dr. Tumpey international recognition and established his laboratory as a leader in influenza research.

His account of this research, published in Science, was honored with the Lancet Award, which recognized it as the top scientific paper of 2005. He has also received the 2006 and 2008 Shepard Award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Ou tstanding Research Papers.

Dr. Tumpey, who earned his bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, received his Ph.D. from the University of South Alabama in 1997, working in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Lausch in the department of microbiology and immunology. His outstanding doctoral work examining herpes infection 01 the eye and the host immune response to infection led to the awarding of an American Society for Microbiology Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He went on to nold positions at the University of Georgia and the Southeast Poultry Research Lab in Athens, Ga.

Since 2003, Dr. Tumpey has been with the CDC and is currently a microbiologist and team leader of pathogenesis, within the Immunology and Pathogenesis Branch. His research on pathogenesis . and immunity during the last 22 years is documented in 153 total peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Tumpey was appointed to the Editorial board of the Journal of Virology in 2006 and in 2007 was inducted into the University of Minnesota, Duluth Academy of Science and Engineering.

He and his wife, Abbigail, have two sons, Blake and Pierce.

NIH Award Receives Campus Media Attention

 NIH Awards USA $14.5 Million Grant (The Vanguard) (PDF)

USA Scientists Awarded $14.5 Million for Infectious Disease Research Lab (Midweek Memo) (PDF)

USA Medicine : Volume 3, Issue 3, Summer 2006 (PDF) page 11

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