Dr. Pallavi Chandra joined the Department of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases as an Instructor in March, 2021.
Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s leading infectious disease, claiming a million lives every year. The current treatments are lengthy, toxic and limited due to the rise of multi-drug resistant infections. Thus, there is a pressing need for the development of new therapies. Dr. Chandra’s research goal is to identify host-pathogen interactions critical for intracellular infection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the etiological agent of TB. At the Philips lab, Dr. Chandra and the team discovered that inhibition of host fatty acid oxidation impairs intracellular growth of Mtb by inducing mitochondrial reactive oxygen species, NADPH oxidase, and autophagy. Currently, they are characterizing this novel relationship between host metabolism and immune effector functions, and testing the efficacy of FAO inhibitors as host-directed therapy (HDT) for TB. Dr. Chandra also performed global metabolomics to identify unique biochemicals produced by Mtb-infected macrophages. The results of this study contributed to understanding infection-induced metabolic perturbations, and TB biomarker development. Additionally, Dr. Chandra’s other project focuses on characterizing mycobacterial ubiquitination and its impact on intracellular fate of the pathogen. Her research experience contributed to collaborative studies on other respiratory pathogens such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she got the opportunity to learn about viral infections, and the lab developed an in vitro antiviral screening platform to test small molecules for activity against SARS-CoV2 infections. In the past years, Dr. Chandra learned that HDTs offer a promising approach for drug development since they target host molecules, and can potentially overcome multi-drug resistant infections. However, it is an unexplored area that will require a concerted research effort. Dr. Chandra’s long-term goal is to identify novel host targets important to establish Mtb infection, and translate her findings to develop rational strategies for combinatorial therapy for TB.