The Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Isis Kanevsky-Mullarky, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, for her work to understand staph infections and how to fight them.
Many healthy people carry staph bacteria on their skin or in their noses. Most of the time, these bacteria are harmless or result in minor skin infections.
But staph infections can turn deadly if the bacteria invade deeper into the body through the bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs, or heart. Growing numbers of otherwise healthy people are developing life-threatening staph infections, and antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective at fighting them.
Kanevsky-Mullarky's lab seeks to understand basic interactions of staph bacteria and the host during infection. She uses bovine models because of their similarities to humans to study immune responses and identify naturally occurring protective mechanisms.
Specifically, she is elucidating the response of dendritic cells and their role in driving infection fighters called T cells. She also seeks to identify the antigens or proteins that induce immune memory, and use this information in the development of vaccines.
In a related line of research, Dr. Kanevsky-Mullarky tracks the development of the immune system in young cows.
She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont and became involved in the CREAM Program – a largely student run dairy – and developed a fascination with the dairy cow, mammary function, and infectious disease.
She received her master’s degree in biological and animal sciences at University of Vermont and a doctoral degree in pathobiology/Immunology at Penn State. She joined Virginia Tech’s Department of Dairy Science in 2006.