Combating Plague

Combating Plague

Thursday, February 9, 2006

The New York Academy of Sciences

Organizer: David Perlin, Public Health Research Institute

Emerging infectious diseases are those that have newly appeared in a population or that have existed but are rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range. Recent examples include HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, and hepatitis C. The New York Academy of Sciences is proud to host the Emerging Infectious Diseases Discussion Group, part of our continuing lecture series. This discussion group features keynote presentations by principal investigators, along with short presentations by promising graduate students and postdocs.


5:00 - 7:30: Presentations

Ronald Crystal
, Weill-Cornell Medical College, "Genetic Medicines to Combat Bioterrorism."

Chad J. Roy, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, "Infectious Disease Aerobiology: The Study of Aerosol-Acquired Infection."

James Bliska
, University at Stony Brook,"Yersinia Pestis: Mechanisms of Host Protection and New Targets for Intervention."


"Yersinia Pestis: Mechanisms of Host Protection and New Targets for Intervention"
James Bliska

Yersinia pestis is the agent of bubonic and pneumonic plague. Y. pestis is highly virulent and can be transmitted to humans by the aerosol route. As these characteristics make development of Y. pestis into biological weapon possible, it has been classified as a category A agent. Vaccines currently available may not effectively protect humans against pneumonic plague. Current treatment strategies rely on the use of antibiotics. The generation of antibiotic resistant strains through natural selection or by human intervention poses a significant health threat to the population. Therefore, new vaccines and novel therapeutic strategies are needed to counteract the intentional use of plague as a biological weapon. Studies carried out in mice suggest that both a humoral and cellular immune response is required for optimal host protection against Y. pestis. Several Y. pestis proteins, including F1 and LcrV, have been shown to function as protective antigens. Mice can be protected against plague if they are actively immunized with F1 or LcrV, or passively immunized with antibodies against these proteins. However, because F1 is not required for virulence, and different antigenic forms of LcrV exist, there are additional challenges to current experimental vaccination strategies. Recent studies, which seek to better understand the role of cellular immunity to Y. pestis, and to identify new targets for intervention, will be discussed.