Welcome to the Hernandez Lab
Mycobacteria are a unique group of bacteria, also referred to as “acid fast bacteria,” including the causative organisms of diseases of global and pediatric significance. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, kills over 1 million people per year. Non-tuberculosis mycobacteria (NTM) are a group of diverse, but related, organisms, including members of the Mycobacterium avium complex and the Mycobacterium abscessus group. NTM cause lung and other infections in patients with underlying conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS and other immune deficiencies.
In the Hernandez Lab, we use a combination of genetics, molecular biology, cell culture models and animal models to probe the interactions between mycobacterial pathogens and host immune cells. Using these tools, we try to answer multiple questions:
- How do mycobacteria survive within host immune cells? What are the genetic programs in bacteria that facilitate their survival?
- How do the interactions between mycobacteria and immune cells make the bacteria less susceptible to killing by antibiotics? Can we identify strategies to enhance activity of antibiotics against bacteria that are tolerant to them?
Tuberculosis and other mycobacterial infections require treatment with multiple months of potentially toxic antibiotics. We hope answering these questions will serve as a basis for developing new strategies to improve the efficacy and shorten the duration of antibiotic regimens for mycobacterial infections.
Rafael E. Hernandez, MD, PhD, is a member of the Center for Global Infectious Disease Research (CGIDR) at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and an acting instructor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Infectious Diseases, at the University of Washington. He also provides patient care as an attending physician in pediatric infectious diseases at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
He studied biology as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College and then completed a combined MD/PhD program at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He was a pediatrics resident and a fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He conducted his fellowship research with Dr. Lalita Ramakrishnan at the University of Washington before joining Seattle Children’s Hospital as a principal investigator, focusing on mycobacterial pathogens.