We have built and continue to advance our multidisciplinary approach to the study of the human immune response to Bacillus anthracis. We view B. anthracis as one of the most significant threats to our society as a bioterrorist agent, distinct from its use as a biological weapon. B. anthracis is alarming as a weapon of terror for several reasons: 1) the spore is long-lived, is simple to make, does not require complex and expensive equipment, and is stable in harsh environments; 2) the vaccine is of questionable efficacy, has a cumbersome injection schedule, and is not provided to civilians; 3) mortality remains high even with effective antibiotic therapy ; 4) even a small number of deaths from a rare and thus exotic disease is sufficient to cause terror in our population. Indeed, this is exactly what happened after the US Postal Service Center attacks in 2001.
The group we assembled is productive, highly interactive and has a formidable background in immunology as well as expertise in Bacillus anthracis. Our group includes faculty, fellows, technicians, veterinary staff and other support staff at four different institutions: The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, The University of Oklahoma, The University of Chicago, The University of Cincinnati, and Boston University. Our efforts consist of five Scientific Projects, three Technical Projects and two Core Facilities (along with Administrative and Educational cores). We attack the problem from every direction: powerful experimental models largely developed in house, a novel approach to vaccine genetics and vaccine efficacy, several host-response interactions, studies of the exotoxins, and two novel and exciting therapeutic approaches.
Specific areas of impact include the following:
How B. anthracis toxins impair the immune response to anthrax: J. Ballard Laboratory
How the human lung responds to B. anthracis spores: J. Metcalf Laboratory
How human blood cells respond to vegetative B. anthracis; K. M Coggeshall Laboratory
How the anthrax vaccine recognizes B. anthracis toxins: J. James and A.D. Farris Laboratories
How the anthrax toxins impair NK T cell responses: M. Lang Laboratory
Our efforts are on-going over seven years and we have made substantive advances. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate anthrax from the bioterrorist arsenal.