Research

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Priebe Laboratory

The Priebe Laboratory studies the bacterial pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the Burkholderia cepacia complex, with the long-term goal of developing vaccines and new antimicrobials. Techniques used in Priebe’s group span multiple fields, including microbiology, molecular biology, genomics, cellular and molecular immunology, and animal models of infection.

Dr. Priebe has made contributions in clinical and translational research around the prevention of healthcare-associated infections, particularly central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), where the lab identified the optimal disinfection methods before line entry, and ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), where Dr. Priebe co-authored the pediatric portion of the SHEA guidelines for VAP prevention. He also serves as site-PI of an AHRQ-funded study to develop a new definition for VAP in pediatric populations.

Lab Members:

Principal Investigator

Gregory Priebe, MD

Dr. Priebe is a Senior Associate in the Division of Critical Care Medicine of the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he attends in the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit. He is also an Associate in the Division of Infectious Diseases of the Department of Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Priebe serves as the Associate Program Director for the Fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, where he is the Director of Fellowship Research. In addition to his clinical and teaching roles, Dr. Priebe chairs the hospital’s Nosocomial Infection Oversight Committee, which monitors healthcare-associated infection prevention practices for the hospital’s 4 ICUs. He is also active in national working groups aimed at reducing and better defining healthcare-associated infections in children. In 2013, Dr. Priebe established the Translational Research for Infection Prevention in Pediatric Anesthesia and Critical Care (TRIPPACC) Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, a multidisciplinary program bringing together Dr. Priebe’s laboratory with the clinical microbiology lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, Infection Prevention and Control at BCH, and the Dept. of Systems Biology at HMS, all with focus on bacterial -omics techniques to study antibiotic resistance and bacterial pathogenesis in healthcare associated infections.

Dr. Priebe earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and then completed residency and chief residency in Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital followed by fellowships in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, also at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is board certified in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Pediatric Critical Care Medicine.

Research Fellows

Christina Merakou, Ph.D
Research Fellow
Completed a 5-year degree program (BSc + MSc) in Agricultural Biotechnology at the Agricultural University of Athens, Greece. Earned her MSc in Medical Biotechnology from Wageneingen University, Netherlands and her Ph.D in Molecular
Biotechnology from the University of Siena/Novartis Vaccines, Italy. Her research interests are in human bacterial pathogenesis, host-pathogen interactions, microbial genetics, and vaccinology

Matthew Schaefers, Ph.D
Research Fellow
Earned his Ph.D. in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology with emphasis in infectious diseases from the University of Minnesota. His project focuses on understanding gene regulation pathways involved in Burkholderia and Pseudomonas 
pathogenesis.

Research Assistants

Nicole M. Boisvert, B.S.
Research Assistant
Earned her B.S. from UMass Amherst. Her area of focus is in microbiology research on human pathogenic bacteria

Tiffany Liao, B.S.
Research Assistant
Earned her B.S in Biology from Emory University. Her areas of focus are in Biology and Computer Science.

Ongoing Research

A major focus of Dr. Priebe’s lab, which is located in the Enders Research Building of Boston Children’s Hospital, is on the mechanisms of protection of P. aeruginosa vaccines. His group showed that Pseudomonas aroA deletion mutants, given intranasally, protect mice against acute Pseudomonas pneumonia and also against corneal infections. Antibodies alone can protect against corneal infections. However, for protection against pneumonia, both T cells and LPS-specific antibodies are needed. Rapid recruitment of neutrophils to the airways by the cytokine IL-17, which is secreted by helper CD4 T cells called Th17 cell, is critical for vaccine-induced protection in the non-neutropenic host, while CD4 T cells secreting GM-CSF are needed in the neutropenic host. Dr. Priebe’s lab also recently discovered Th17-stimulating Pseudomonas protein antigens that are effective intranasal vaccines in mice. Ongoing work is aimed at improving the potency and broadness of protection of these novel vaccines.

Another major effort of the lab centers on the investigation of bacterial and host factors important for P. aeruginosa infections. Dr. Priebe’s lab uncovered the importance of the LPS O antigen for dissemination during pneumonia and the critical role of neutrophils and neutrophil elastase inhibitor in host defense in the respiratory tract and during gut-derived sepsis.

Another project in Dr. Priebe’s lab examines the roles of LPS and surface polysaccharides in the virulence of bacteria in the Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC), including B. dolosa, which caused an outbreak in the early 2000s among cystic fibrosis patients at Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. Priebe’s group showed that a staphylococcal surface polysaccharide called poly N-acetyl-glucosamine is expressed by the BCC and is a target for antibody-mediated therapies, most notably for the nearly pan-resistant B. dolosa. In collaboration with the HMS Department of Systems Biology, Dr. Priebe’s team used whole-genome sequencing of B. dolosa isolates from the Boston Children’s Hospital outbreak to identify bacterial genes under strong positive selection, suggesting potential new antibiotic targets, one of which is under active investigation. Ongoing work has extended these methods to single sputum samples and to other bacteria infecting the respiratory tract of critically ill children receiving mechanical ventilation.

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