The human body hosts a collection of complex microbial ecosystems where microbes frequently outnumber human cells, and hundreds to thousands of bacterial species may be represented. The Fredricks Laboratory based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center studies the human indigenous microbiota to determine how changes in microbial communities impact human health. We use tools in molecular biology such as broad range 16S rRNA gene PCR to describe microbial diversity in human body sites with a focus on the vaginal microbiota and the common condition bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is a poorly understood condition associated with preterm birth, pelvic inflammatory disease, HIV acquisition, and other STDs.
The Fredricks Lab has identified several fastidious bacterial species that are useful markers of BV and are associated with adverse health outcomes. There are many research projects ongoing that use tools in molecular biology, microbiology, immunology, and cell biology to study human microbial ecosystems.
The Fredricks Laboratory also develops molecular diagnostic tests for the detection and identification of bacterial and fungal pathogens in immunocompromised hosts. Patients with cancer are prone to a variety of infections as a result of cytotoxic therapies, defective mucosal barriers, and use of immunosuppressive drugs. The diagnosis of many such infections remains challenging due to the poor sensitivity and specificity of conventional diagnostic tests. We use quantitative PCR assays and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to detect bacterial and fungal pathogens in blood, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, and other tissues obtained from cancer patients with invasive infections. Syndromes of interest include fever with neutropenia, fungal pneumonia, and unexplained pneumonia.