Child malnutrition is a serious global health issue, responsible for nearly half of the deaths in young children each year. Surprisingly, even when malnourished children are fed nutrient-rich therapeutic foods, they often do not regain normal height and weight. An intestinal disorder known as environmental enteropathy, which interferes with nutrient absorption, may be preventing malnourished children from benefiting from healthy feeding programs. This intestinal disorder is believed to result from continuous exposure to fecal bacteria in regions of poor sanitation. I am using a mouse model of this disease, as well as human samples from malnourished children, to explore how gut microbes interact with the host during environmental enteropathy. I am interested in how mucosal antibody responses shape the microbiota, and how bacteria communicate with one another and with the host immune system, during malnutrition and intestinal disease. Understanding the communication between host and microbes during environmental enteropathy will further our knowledge of this disease, and may help us to design more effective treatments for child malnutrition.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
The research opportunities at UBC for my particular field of interest (microbiology and the gut microbiota) are phenomenal. I am honoured to be working in Dr. B Brett Finlay's lab, studying a topic which I find exciting and important. UBC also offers many opportunities to collaborate with other high-caliber researchers here at the university and at neighbouring institutions, and is a well-respected university on the global stage. Its stunning location and beautiful campus are an additional bonus.