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Mary Wilson, MD

Internal Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology

Office: 405 EMRB
Office Phone: 319-356-3169

Lab: 400 EMRB

Dr. Wilson's research focuses on the molecular and immunobiology of infection with the protozoan parasite, Leishmania

Dr. Wilson's research studies address the molecular, cellular and immunobiology of infection with the Leishmania species protozoa. Both human immunogenetic and parasite-encoded virulence factors lead to wide spectrum of disease manifestations caused by these organisms. Dr. Wilson’s studies focus on the contributions of both host and parasite molecular characteristics that determine the outcome of leishmaniasis.

Leishmania are spread through the bite of a sand fly vector, and reside intracellularly in macrophages in human or other mammalian hosts. The parasite causes dramatic changes in gene expression in the host phagocyte, and lab members are investigating host mRNAs, host microRNAs and the parasite encoded virulence molecules underlying these changes. Both murine models and cultured human cells are used to address the contributions of neutrophils, macrophages, monocyte subsets, dendritic cells and keratinocytes to the local immune responses. Two main hypotheses underlying studies are, (1) Leishmania manipulate the local immune response through the release of exosomes containing virulence-related proteins into the host environment; and (2) NLR proteins are important cytoplasmic sensors that influence the outcome of leishmaniasis through the recruitment of inflammatory cells and control of the inflammatory response at the site of infection.

Dr. Wilson also participates in two Tropical Medicine Research Centers that fund collaborative field studies in India and Brazil. Projects in the Wilson lab work toward understanding both human immune and molecular parasitic determinants leading to the diverse forms of human leishmaniasis. The group also studies the role of the sand fly vector in disease transmission, and in particular the contribution of microbiota at the site of Leishmania spp. the outcome of infection.

PubMed link

Department/Program Affiliations:
Internal Medicine
Microbiology and Immunology
Molecular Medicine