Tony Maurelli is a professor of microbiology and immunology in the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Maurelli’s major research interest lies in the genetics of bacterial pathogenesis – the genetic nuts and bolts of how bacteria infect humans and make us sick.
Dr. Maurelli’s work has uncovered “antivirulence genes” in Shigella flexneri, a major cause of dysentery and food borne illness. This is an interesting concept: antivirulence genes undermine pathogenicity, so they must be broken or dropped from the genome for a bacterium to take good advantage of a host and cause disease. These genes are a hindrance, so to become an effective pathogen, Shigella must stop using them.
In this interview, I talked with Dr. Maurelli about antivirulence genes, about whether the naming system for bacteria should be fixed, and about his favorite bacteria.