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Maria D Esteve-Gassent

Assistant Professor

Curriculum Vitae

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Department: VTPB

Photo of Esteve-Gassent, Maria


    Brazil: Interest in the presence of pathogenic Borrelia species in sinantropic bats in Paraná, Brazil. Our research team will be acquiring blood and tissue samples from bats as well as ecto-parasites feeding on those bats to analyze the presence of pathogenic Borrelia. Our collaborators in Brazil have found Borrelia spp in bats blood and they are interested in determine whether those Borrelia species are pathogenic for humans and life stock, due to the high density of bats in that particular area, and the impact they can have on human and veterinary health.

    Mexico: Study of Lyme disease in Center and Northern Mexico. During the Mid 1990’s there was a number of Lyme disease cases diagnosed in Central Mexico, and the numbers have been increasing considerably during the past few years. Our collaborators are scientist and physicians at the Pediatric Hospital in the Centro Médico Nacioal SXXI (IMSS) The objectives of this project are to analyze the expression of selected Borrelia-virulence markers associated with European and US borreliosis in tissues of potential reservoirs and vectors (ticks), and to determine regions of high-risk for Lyme disease in Mexico. The rationale is: we have documented B. burgdorferi infection in Mexican patients with clinical manifestations similar to those reported in both, US and Europe (Mexico diagnostic reference laboratory, unpublished).

    Spain: Study of Membrane proteins of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. Our collaborator is at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the University of Valencia. Their expertise is in the study of hydrophobic domains of proteins and the study of their topology when associated to membranes.

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  • Ph.D. Microbiology, University of Valencia, Spain 2003
  • European Ph.D., University of Valencia, Spain 2003
  • University of Valencia, Diploma of Advanced Studies (DEA) 2002
  • B.S. / M.S Biology, University of Valencia, Spain 1998

Scholarly Interests

My laboratory is interested in understanding how Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, counteracts oxidative and nitrosative stress upon transmission to the mammalian host. The ability of B. burgdorferi to colonize mammals is dependent on its ability to rapidly alter gene expression in response to highly disparate environmental signals following transmission from infected ticks. Furthermore, this bacterium has a very limited number of genes involved in counteracting oxidative and nitrosative stress, with one single superoxide dismutase (sodA) and no typical catalases and peroxidases. We have demonstrated that the sodA gene is essential for infectivity in the mouse model. Therefore, our goal is to further analyze the molecular mechanisms adopted by B. burgdorferi to combat reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, and to dissect critical physiological responses against these stressors in the processes facilitating colonization of the mammalian hosts. We are also interested in a new family of membrane proteins, known as von Willebrand factor A containing proteins (VWFA), which have been described in other bacterial pathogens as potential adhesines. Our main goal is to understand the topology, insertion in the membranes and function of these proteins in B. burgdorferi during transmission from the infected tick to the mammalian host.

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