Although advances have certainly been achieved into the management of disease-causing microbes, many therapeutics, including the use of antibiotic drugs and vaccines, have improved the quality and length of life but are not completely effective. Antibiotics are overused in the clinic and in agriculture, and this practice has promoted bacterial infections that are resistant to one or more antimicrobial agents. Several pathogens are also able to hide from the immune system by utilizing camouflage techniques or by repeatedly changing the molecules on their surface, making vaccines ineffective. In addition, various disease-causing microbes have the potential to be used as biological weapons. A better understanding of the mechanisms underlying microbial interactions with the host immune system also has broad implications because insufficient or excessive immune responses can lead to infection, cancer, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and an array of other conditions that involve malfunctioning immune responses. 

To develop new alternative approaches to manage microbial infections it is necessary to improve our understanding of the mechanisms by which pathogens infect multicellular eukaryotic hosts and the immune mechanisms that hosts use to defend themselves against pathogen attack. This goal requires a deep understanding of both microbial pathogenesis and basic mechanisms used by the immune system, which should also improve our understanding of surveillance against not only infections but also tissue damage and cancer.

The Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology comprises a cadre of interactive and interdisciplinary faculty with diverse expertise. Our faculty are active in the scientific community and within OHSU, serving on NIH study sections, as editors for prestigious journals, and as members on university committees and councils. The overall mission of our department involves research and education, while bringing together basic and translational efforts through close collaborations with the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, the Oregon National Primate Research Center, and the VA Portland Health Care System as well as Providence Portland Medical Center.