Title: Associate Professor
Department: Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
Research Interests: Molecular epidemiology, bacterial pathogenesis and phage therapy
Hobbies: Snow skiing, SCUBA diving, reading and watching movies
Dr. Alexander Sulakvelidze is an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology and phage technology, and he holds a part-time position with the Emerging Pathogens Institute where he studies highly pathogenic bacteria with the potential to be used for bioterrorism. One example is a centuries old zoonotic bacteria thought to be responsible for killing more than 200 million people over the history of mankind and to be one of the first pathogens used in biological warfare. With funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health, Sulakvelidze operates a laboratory focused on studying zoonotic bacteria.
The framework of interdisciplinary teamwork that EPI creates, and the opportunity to work with epidemiologists, biochemists and geneticists, excites Dr. Sulakvelidze. “EPI offers a very exciting opportunity to interact between various biological sciences and disciplines,” Dr. Sulakvelidze said. “To have all of these researchers in one place within EPI allows an unprecedented opportunity to expand my research and really try to understand how zoonotic diseases infect humans, how they survive in the environment, and how they could be used by bioterrorist organizations."
His other main area of expertise focuses on bacteriophages (viruses that invade bacteria) and phage technology. Phage technology includes the use of bacterial viruses to eliminate or control pathogenic bacteria in a variety of medical, food safety and agricultural settings. Phages are thought to be one of the most numerous organisms on the planet, and they play a key role in maintaining environmental balance. “It’s a classic predator-prey relationship in which bacteriophages keep bacteria in check in pretty much every ecosystem out there,” Dr. Sulakvelidze said. Phages can be very effective in killing specific bacteria hosts, and researchers like Sulakvelidze are exploring their usefulness to improve food safety and to prevent or treat infections. “Bacteria phages represent a very exciting and much needed alternative to antibiotics,” Dr. Sulakvelidze said.
Dr. Sulakvelidze has published extensively on both molecular epidemiology and phage therapy; and in 2005, he co-edited a major book about bacteriophages within which he also authored two main chapters on phage uses in agricultural and human therapeutic settings. The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Science, Smithsonian, Wired, National Public Radio and the BBC, in addition to other media, have all featured his research.
Emerging Pathogens Institute
University of Florida
P.O. Box 100009
Gainesville, FL 32610-0009
Phone: (410) 625-2533