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Biomedical Research Seminar Series

Biomedical Research Seminar Series

The Biomedical Research Seminar was established to bring fresh perspectives to the world of biosciences, bioengineering, diagnostics and therapeutic sciences. We encourage constructive dialogue about topics of importance to the biomedical research community and the exchange of ideas with the potential to foster research collaboration. Invited presentations from internationally and nationally distinguished scholars from all over the world are also scheduled every semester.

EVENT INFO: February 15, 2024 at 1p.m. IRPII First Floor Conf. Rm.

Contact Info: cbeinfo@odu.edu

Victoria Ansah

(757) 683-5873

CBE Biomedical Research Seminar

Abstract: In the 21st century, the rate of intenstinal Clostridium difficile infections (CDIs) skyrocketed due to the emergence of new ‘hypervirulent’ strains. Prior antibiotic use is the greatest risk factor for CDI, because it reduces the protection provided by beneficial gut bacteria. Because C. difficile is a notoriously difficult bacterium to study and had never before been a major public health threat, the molecular bases of this pathogen’s very high resilience and antibiotic tolerance are poorly understood. This has limited the design of new preventative and therapeutic strategies. The bacterial stringent response (SR) is a conserved stress response mechanism regulated by small nucleotide signals called alarmones. The SR is implicated in virulence and recurrence in a number of bacterial pathogens. Alarmone signaling contributes to antibiotic survival in C. difficile, which is consistent with other bacteria, but the mechanism of alarmone synthesis in this organism is unlike that in any previously characterized bacterium. The SR is often considered a poor target for antibiotic development because it is so widespread that attacking it would likely have broad-spectrum effects against beneficial commensal bacteria. However, the unexpected divergence from conserved alarmone synthesis in C. difficile provides an opportunity to specifically target therapeutics against this organism to reduce antibiotic survival.


Erin B. Purcell earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Chicago studying mechanisms of protein signal transduction. Her post-doctoral research at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill focused on small molecule signaling in the pathogenic bacterium Clostridium difficile. She joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Old Dominion University in 2016. The Purcell lab studies stress response and survival in anaerobic bacterial pathogens. The lab's main focus is characterization of the stringent response in C. difficile and its role in survival of antibiotic and immune stress.

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