Understanding GBS infection induced preterm labor
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) are Beta-hemolytic, gram-positive bacteria that frequently colonize the lower genital tract of healthy women. However, GBS can cause severe infections during pregnancy, which leads to preterm birth, stillbirth, or early-onset newborn infections. Consequently, pregnant women are tested for GBS infection and intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis is administered to women who test positive for GBS. Although this is a successful strategy to prevent GBS transmission to the neonate during labor and delivery, in utero infections that occur earlier in pregnancy are not targeted by this approach. Furthermore, the mechanisms of in utero infection remain unknown.
Dr. Lakshmi Rajagopal
The Rajagopal laboratory is studying the molecular mechanisms and virulence factors utilized by GBS to adapt to various environmental niches, with the goal of developing additional strategies to prevent GBS infections. Dr. Rajagopal has recently discovered that the hemolytic and cytolytic activity of GBS is due to the ornithine rhamnolipid pigment, rather than due to a pore-forming protein toxin. Additionally, the Rajagopal lab has shown that this hemolysin promotes GBS invasion of placental cells and that hyper-hemolytic strains are more proficient in disrupting the amniotic barrier and penetrating placental membranes and can be associated with preterm birth. Dr. Rajagopal utilizes an animal model of preterm labor to study GBS and this model will allow the Rajagopal laboratory to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms associated with bacterial invasion of membranes in vivo and to test any therapeutic strategies or vaccine candidates.
Given her expertise in GBS infections and access to a model system for evaluating the efficacy of therapeutic approaches and/or vaccines in preventing preterm birth associated with GBS infections, Dr. Rajagopal is interested in industry partnership in exploring vaccine and therapeutic developments which would facilitate her research and promote the development of novel therapeutic for prevention of GBS colonization and infection.
Stage of Development
- Pre-clinical in vitro
- Pre-clinical in vivo
- Collaborative research opportunity
- Sponsored research agreement
- Consultation agreement
- Vanderhoeven J, Bierle C, Kapur R, McAdams R, Beyer R, Bammler T, Farin F, Bansal A, Spencer M, Deng M, Gravett M, Rubens C, Rajagopal L, Adams Waldorf K. Group B Streptococcal Infection of the Choriodecidua Induces Dysfunction of the Cytokeratin Network in Amniotic Epithelium: A Pathway to Membrane Weakening. PLoS Pathog. 2014;10(3):e1003920.
- Patras K, Wang N, Fletcher E, Cavaco C, Jimenez A, Garg M, Fierer J, Sheen T, Rajagopal L, Doran K. Group B Streptococcus CovR regulation modulates host immune signalling pathways to promote vaginal colonization. Cell Microbiol. 2013;15(7):1154-1167.
- Whidbey C, Harrell M, Burnside K, Ngo L, Becraft A, Iyer L, Aravind, L, Hitti J, Adams Waldorf K, Rajagopal L. A hemolytic pigment of Group B Streptococcus allows bacterial penetration of human placenta. The Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2013;210(6):1265-1281.
To learn more about partnering with Seattle Children’s Research Institute on this or other projects, please contact:
Dr. Elizabeth Aylward
Director, Office of Science-Industry Partnerships