Title: Professor
College: College of Public Health and Health Professions
Department: Environmental and Global Health
Curriculum Vitae: PDF
Research Interests: Bacterial pathogenesis; bacterial genetics; evolution/emergence of bacterial pathogens; public health and infectious disease surveillance in developing countries

Dr. Anthony Maurelli came to the University of Florida under the Preeminence program in January 2016 after having spent almost 30 years at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He brings more than three decades of experience in microbiology to the Emerging Pathogens Institute, where he conducts research on bacteria and how infections lead to disease in the host.

Maurelli received his PhD in molecular cell biology in June, 1983 from the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Medicine. While working with Dr. Roy Curtiss III, he developed an interest in bacterial genetics and bacterial pathogenesis, and studied the pathogenesis of Shigella. After graduating he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France. During the fellowship, he continued his studies on pathogenic mechanisms of Shigella.

Maurelli returned to the United States as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. There he established the Maurelli Lab, which he brought with him to the Emerging Pathogens Institute.

The Maurelli Lab focuses its investigative efforts primarily on Shigella and Chlamydia – specifically Chlamydia trachomatis; the goal is to gain greater understanding of the mechanisms that enable both groups of bacteria to cause disease. Chlamydia, which is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States and the greatest cause of preventable blindness worldwide, is transmitted through sexual contact or from mother to infant as the infant passes through the birth canal.

In the 1950s Shigella was one of the first bacterial pathogens in which strains were identified as resistant to multiple antibiotics. In 2013, the CDC placed multiple drug resistant Shigella in its “Antibiotic Resistance Threat” report. The Maurelli lab is studying the recent emergence of new strains of Shigella that encode a toxin that blocks protein synthesis in eukaryotic cells. They have traced the emergence of these strains to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Future field studies will focus on understanding how these strains evolved and determine what new risks they may present to human health. These studies will also provide insight into how bacterial pathogens evolve and the environmental factors that contribute to their evolution.

The lab’s research on Chlamydia focuses on how Chlamydia makes and assembles its peptidoglycan cell wall. Initially, researchers suspected that Chlamydia had a typical peptidoglycan layer because the bacteria are sensitive to penicillin, a drug that blocks peptidoglycan synthesis. Paradoxically, no one was able to demonstrate the presence of peptidoglycan in Chlamydia for over 50 years. The Maurelli lab recently demonstrated the existence of a peptidoglycan cell wall in Chlamydia. The lab is now investigating how the peptidoglycan functions in cell division. In addition, they are studying how fragments of peptidoglycan induce the innate immune response in the mammalian host. This interaction is critical to Chlamydia pathogenesis since Chlamydia infection causes a severe inflammatory response in the host. A deeper understanding of this host-pathogen interaction can lead to more effective methods of treatment of Chlamydia infections.

Contact Information:
Emerging Pathogens Institute
Gainesville, FL 32611-0001
Phone: (352) 294-5029
Email: amaurelli@phhp.ufl.edu