Elucidation of host-pathogen interactions during Orientia tsutsugamushi infection and translation into new diagnostics

Year of award: 2021


  • Dr Jeanne Salje

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Project summary

Scrub typhus is a life-threatening human disease caused by a bacterium transmitted from mites. It is widespread in Asia but has recently been found in other parts of the world. Changes in climate and land-use patterns raise concerns that it may spread further. It is technically challenging to work with Orientia tsutsugamushi (Ot), the bacterium that causes scrub typhus. For this reason, Ot has not been well studied compared with other bacterial pathogens. Limited efforts to understand the biology of Ot have prevented significant progress in the development of urgently needed vaccines, diagnostic tools, and new treatments. To address the knowledge gap, we must uncover fundamental aspects of Ot biology, including how these bacteria infect, exploit the host machinery, and exit human cells before spreading throughout the body. We will then take advantage of these insights to improve diagnostic tests for scrub typhus, and develop human vaccines and effective treatments.