Relationship Between Bacteria and Neutrophils Basis of Study

Elsa Bou Ghanem

Elsa Bou Ghanem, PhD

Published January 23, 2019

Elsa Bou Ghanem, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, is conducting a four-year study on how white blood cells function against bacterial infections.

Seeking to Better Understand Interactions

Streptococcus pneumoniae are bacteria that cause diseases such as pneumonia when they infect the lungs. These infections lead to an influx of neutrophils — a kind of white blood cell — into the lungs, causing inflammation.

Inflammation can fight infection because neutrophils kill bacteria. However, uncontrolled inflammation can damage tissues, impeding the organs’ ability to function properly.

The aim of Bou Ghanem’s study, titled “The Effect of Mucosal Pathogens on Neutrophil Responses,” is to better understand the interaction between bacteria and neutrophils.

Greater understanding could eventually lead to new strategies to treat infections and bring about a decline in the number of hospitalizations and the rate of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

Goal is to Develop Better Treatment Strategies

During the course of the study, Bou Ghanem will enroll 48 healthy, adult male and female volunteers between the ages of 21 and 45.

Their blood will be drawn, and neutrophils will be isolated from the collected samples and used in experiments to understand the ways in which they cross from the bloodstream into tissues and then destroy bacteria.

"Despite the presence of vaccines and antibiotics, Streptococcus pneumoniae infections remain a serious cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide,” Bou Ghanem says.

“The goal of our research is to better understand how a type of white blood cells, named neutrophils, interacts with and kill these bacteria. An improved understanding of the host response to S. pneumoniae can lead to better treatment strategies," she adds.