Stefania Spanò

Cells containing Salmonella Typhi (in red) stained with an antimicrobial protein (in green)Salmonella Typhi (S. Typhi) is a bacterium that causes typhoid fever, an infection that affects many millions of people, killing hundreds of thousands. This bacterium is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, making it a serious global health threat. Interestingly, S. Typhi only infects humans. In other animal species it is efficiently killed by macrophages, immune cells that act as the body’s first line of defence.

Our research seeks to understand why human macrophages are unable to fight S. Typhi and aims to develop ways of boosting their efficacy. We recently discovered two molecular components required by mouse macrophages to kill S. Typhi. We now aim to identify the antimicrobial molecules associated to these components using advanced technologies that allow to detect specific molecules from complex cellular samples.

Identifying novel antimicrobial molecules will represent a significant breakthrough in understanding the function of the immune system and may provide the foundation for developing new treatments for bacterial diseases. Since the same molecules may recognize other deadly bacterial pathogens, in particular the agents of tuberculosis and leprosy, this research may also advance treatment of these diseases.