Monica Embers, PhD (Moderator)

Associate Professor and Director of Vector-Borne Disease Research
Tulane National Primate Research Center
Covington, LA

Combined Antimicrobial Therapy for Eradication of B. burgdorferi Dr. Embers is currently an Associate Professor in the Division of Immunology and the Director of Vector-Borne Disease Research at the TNPRC. Her research program regarding Lyme disease and its infectious cause, Borrelia burgdorferi, specializes in animal models. The research is centered around three major efforts: (1) identifying treatments that can eradicate B. burgdorferi infection; (2) detection of persistent Lyme disease spirochetes in human (autopsy and surgical discard) tissues; and (3) immunodiagnosis for B. burgdorferi infection and cure. By transmitting Lyme disease to mice and nonhuman primates by tick, and studying the natural course of infection, her group aims to attain a better understanding of the clinical quandaries of human Lyme disease, including effective diagnosis and treatment. Due to the many similarities between bartonellosis and Lyme disease, her team has begun to develop research models for Bartonella infection and assess vector transmission of this pathogen as well.  

Conference Lecture Summary

Summary: Given the potential for standard antibiotic treatment regimens for Lyme disease to fail to eradicate persisters, we aim to discover a drug combination that can eliminate B. burgdorferi infection. The goals of this project are to: (1) using a library of FDA-approved drugs, identify the optimal antimicrobial combinations that could kill B. burgdorferi in vitro; and (2) test them in animal models of Lyme disease for cure of infection. The most effective combinations of drugs that kill the bacteria have been identified with in vitro studies. These were then evaluated in B. burgdorferi-infected mice, using long-term infection to allow for regrowth of persisters. Finally, the most effective regimens are being assessed in nonhuman primates. Importantly, we have refined the selection of drugs to those that can be administered orally.