Major Areas of Research
- Staphylococcal infection and colonization
- Bacterial interactions with the host and the host microbiota
- Antibiotic resistance in Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Biofilm development and infection
Our research focuses predominantly on staphylococci, bacteria that colonize epithelial surfaces of humans and other mammals. Most have a benign, or as more recently discovered, even beneficial, relationship with the host. However, some of them can cause serious infections after breaching through the epithelia of the skin or other organs.
The most dangerous pathogen of the genus is Staphylococcus aureus, which is a leading cause of hospital- and community-associated infections, such as infections of the lung, skin, bones, or blood. Many of them can be fatal. We are interested in mechanisms of staphylococcal pathogenesis with a current focus on peptide toxins (phenol-soluble modulins, PSMs) and quorum-sensing.
Staphylococci frequently cause device-associated infections, which characteristically involve biofilms and can develop into dangerous blood infections in patients undergoing surgery or those with underlying conditions. We have performed intensive research on staphylococcal biofilm formation, including on contributing factors such as exopolysaccharides, on biofilm regulation, and on dispersal factors. Our focus is on in-vivo relevance of biofilm formation mechanisms.
Antibiotic resistance (such as in methicillin-resistant S. aureus, MRSA) is a major problem associated with staphylococcal infections. Our laboratory investigates mechanisms of virulence in MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant staphylococci with the goal of developing anti-virulence treatment options.
We are also performing research on the interaction of Staphylococcus bacteria with the host and with other microorganisms within the microbiota of the human intestine and skin. Part of this research includes the evaluation of probiotic interactions and their translational use.
Dr. Otto received his M.S. in biochemistry in 1993 from the University of Tübingen, Germany. In 1998, he earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the same institution. Dr. Otto joined the Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis in July 2001 as a principal investigator. In 2008, he became a tenured senior investigator and moved his laboratory to the NIH Bethesda main campus.
Dr. Otto serves on several editorial advisory boards and is a section editor (Gram-positive bacteria) at PLoS Pathogens.
Dr. Yiu Chong “Gordon” Cheung, Ph.D.
Gordon oversees our animal studies and works on virulence factors contributing to infections with S. aureus and coagulase-negative staphylococci.
Dr. Seth W. Dickey, Ph.D.
Seth has a broad interest in understanding the mechanisms of how membrane proteins facilitate disease in bacterial pathogens. He currently studies structure and function of the staphylococcal Pmt PSM export system.
Dr. Nana Amissah, Ph.D.
Nana studies the mechanisms leading to S. aureus superinfection of Buruli ulcers, severe skin infections caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans.
Baruch B. Hertzog, Ph.D.
Baruch investigates inter-kingdom interactions between staphylococci and other microorganisms during colonization and disease.
Pipat Piewngam, Ph.D.
Pipat works on host-microbe and interbacterial interactions during intestinal colonization and infection, focusing on control of S. aureus and other Gram-positive pathogens by probiotic Bacillus.
Yue Zheng, Ph.D
Yue is interested in the characterization of staphylococcal extracellular enzymes that may benefit bacteria and the host.
Waranaya “Ann” Imprasittichai, Ph.D.
Ann works on Bacillus probiotic interactions with Gram-positive pathogens.
Ping Miao, Ph.D.
Ping is interested in bacterial contribution to allergic disease.
Thuan H. Nguyen, M.S.
GPP student (Georgetown University)
Thuan is interested in which biological functions the pro-inflammatory staphylococcal phenol-soluble modulin (PSM) toxins have in vivo.
Justin S. Bae, B.S.
Justin is working with Gordon on the role of PSMs and quorum-sensing in staphylococcal infection.
Priyanka Chatterjee, B.S.
Priyanka is working with Pipat on using Bacillus probiotic spores against disease caused by Gram-positive pathogens.
Janice Chiou, B.S.
Janice is working with Pipat on using Bacillus probiotic spores against disease caused by Gram-positive pathogens.
Steven B. Huang, B.S.
Steven is working with Seth on the mechanism of PSM export in staphylococci.
Saba Firdous, M.S.
Saba studies in-vivo responses to PSMs together with Thuan.
Amer E. Villaruz, Ph.D.
Ryan Liu, B.S.
Former laboratory members and current affiliations:
Postdoctoral IRTAs and visiting fellows
Som Chatterjee, Ph.D. (University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD)
Lei He, Ph.D. (Renji Hospital, Jiaotong University, Shanghai)
Hwang-Soo Joo, Ph.D. (Duksung Womens’ University, Seoul, South Korea)
Stanislava Kocianova, Ph.D. (Wuppertal, Germany)
Katherine Le, M.D. (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN)
Min Li, Ph.D. (Renji Hospital, Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China)
Saravanan Periasamy, Ph.D. (Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Chennai, India)
Li Qin, M.D. (Wuhan No.1 Hospital, Wuhan, China)
Shu Yeong “Johnny” Queck, Ph.D. (Biomerieux Ltd., Singapore)
Kevin R. Rigby, Ph.D., (miRagen Therapeutics, Boulder, CO)
Viveka Vadyvaloo, Ph.D. (Idaho State University, Moscow, ID)
Cuong Vuong, Ph.D. (Aicuris, Wuppertal, Germany)
Rong Wang, Ph.D. (USDA, Clay Center, NE)
Yufeng Yao, Ph.D. (Jiaotong University, Shanghai)
Pre-doc IRTAs, GPP students, and Ph.D. student-level special volunteers
Charlene Coulon, Ph.D. (Universite du Littoral, Boulogne-sur-mer, France)
Kok-Fai Kong, Ph.D. (La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla, CA)
Yuping Lai, Ph.D. (East China Normal University, Shanghai)
Yan Chen, M.D. (Zhejian University, Hangzhou, China)
Fei Da, Ph.D. (Air Force Medical University, Xian, China)
Sana Dastgheyb, M.D. Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA)
June Chan, Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD)
Hao “Tony” Pang, M.D. (Harbor–UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA)
Burhan A. Khan (Translational Research Institute, Woolloongabba, Australia)
Max Jameson-Lee, Ph.D. (Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA)
David J. Cha, M.D. (Stanford, CA)
Thanh-Huy Bach, Pharm.D. (Seattle, WA)
Kwame Tuffour, M.D. (Howard University, Washington, DC)
Thomas Dieringer, M.D. (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA)
Anthony Duong, M.D. (Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, Queens Village, NY)
Trung Ho (USUHS, Bethesda, MD)
Anthony Yeh (William Carey University, Hattiesburg, MS)
Chih-Lung Fu (Qiagen, Gaithersburg, MD)
David Maguire (United States Pharmacopeia, Rockville, MD)
Joshua McCausland (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD)
Kyle Glose (Quinnipiac, New Haven, CT)
Emilie Fisher (Vanderbilt University, TN)
Rachelle Hunt (Yale University, New Haven, CT)
Barry Li (Rutgers University, Newark, NJ)
Saba Firdous (LCIM, NIAID, Bethesda, MD)
Aaron Carmody (RTB, NIAID, Hamilton, MT)
Vee Tan (LCIM, NIAID, Bethesda, MD)
He L, Le KY, Khan BA, Nguyen TH, Hunt RL, Bae JS, Kabat J, Zheng Y, Cheung GYC, Li M, Otto M. Resistance to leukocytes ties benefits of quorum sensing dysfunctionality to biofilm infection. Nat Microbiol 2019 Jul;4(7):1114-1119.
Piewngam P, Zheng Y, Nguyen TH, Dickey SW, Joo HS, Villaruz AE, Glose KA, Fisher EL, Hunt RL, Li B, Chiou J, Pharkjaksu S, Khongthong S, Cheung GYC, Kiratisin P, Otto M. Pathogen elimination by probiotic Bacillus via signalling interference. Nature 2018 Oct;562(7728):532-537.
Qin L, Da F, Fisher EL, Tan DC, Nguyen TH, Fu CL, Tan VY, McCausland JW, Sturdevant DE, Joo HS, Queck SY, Cheung GY, Otto M. Toxin Mediates Sepsis Caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis. PLoS Pathog 2017 Feb 2;13(2):e1006153.
Chatterjee SS, Joo HS, Duong AC, Dieringer TD, Tan VY, Song Y, Fischer ER, Cheung GY, Li M, Otto M. Essential Staphylococcus aureus toxin export system. Nat Med 2013 Mar;19(3):364-7.
Li M, Du X, Villaruz AE, Diep BA, Wang D, Song Y, Tian Y, Hu F, Yu F, Lu Y, Otto M. MRSA epidemic linked to a quickly spreading colonization and virulence determinant. Nat Med 2012 May;18(5): 816-819.
Wang R, Braughton KR, Kretschmer D, Bach TH, Queck SY, Li M, Kennedy AD, Dorward DW, Klebanoff SJ, Peschel A, DeLeo FR, Otto M. Identification of novel cytolytic peptides as key virulence determinants for community-associated MRSA. Nat Med 2007 Dec;13(12):1510-4.