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The American Society for Microbiology selected Miriam Braunstein, PhD, in the UNC Department of Microbiology & Immunology, as a distinguished lecturer for a two-year term.

Miriam Braunstein, PhD, professor in the UNC Department of Microbiology and Immunology, has been selected to serve as an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer for a two-year term, from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2024.

The American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) Program annually selects a scientifically diverse group of lecturers who are available to speak at local ASM Branch meetings throughout the United States. The society chooses lecturers through a competitive nomination process, and only the most distinguished lecturers and researchers are chosen to participate in the program. Individuals are chosen for their excellent scientific credentials, proven outstanding speaking ability, interest in interacting with students and postdoctoral associates at Branch meetings and interest in participating in Branch activities that promote career development.

The Braunstein Laboratory studies the basic mechanisms that mycobacterium tuberculosis uses to cause disease, and her team focuses on the development of new therapeutic strategies to treat tuberculosis. She also studies nontuberculous mycobacteria, which are increasing in their prevalence. Such NTMs are associated with chronic pulmonary infections in people living with lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Her lectures will focus on three major themes:

The Bacterial Protein Export Zoo

All bacteria have pathways for exporting specific subsets of proteins from their site of synthesis in the bacterial cytoplasm to the cell envelope or extracellular environment, where exported proteins play critical roles in bacterial physiology and pathogenesis. There are many types of protein export systems and new systems are being discovered all the time. This lecture will discuss different pathways that bacteria use to solve the problem of exporting proteins across permeability barriers. Functional similarities between diverse systems will be highlighted, including examples of components that are shared between or co-opted from different systems.

Survival in the Belly of the Beast: Bacterial Survival Strategies in Macrophages  

There are many examples of bacterial pathogens that survive in the normally hostile environment of the macrophage. Such intracellular bacteria have mechanisms, which commonly involve secreted bacterial effector proteins, to resist the antimicrobial attack or subvert the innate immune response of macrophages. There is often a high level of redundancy incorporated into these mechanisms to ensure bacterial intracellular survival. This lecture will discuss similarities and differences in mechanisms used by an array of intracellular pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

TB or Not TB? That Is the Lecture.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the infamous bacterial pathogen responsible for tuberculosis, remains a significant global health problem accounting for 1.5 million deaths per year. In addition to M. tuberculosis there are pathogenic nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) that are a growing threat, particularly for individuals living with cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mycobacterium abscessus, a NTM found in soil and water, is among the most common NTMs encountered in NTM pulmonary disease and it is highly drug resistant. M. tuberculosis and NTM pathogens share many similarities including the ability to survive in macrophages and to induce the formation of granulomas. However, there are also differences between these mycobacterial pathogens that need to be understood to inform therapeutic development. This lecture will compare and contrast tuberculous and nontuberculous mycobacteria and their associated diseases.

The American Society for Microbiology, one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences, is composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners. ASM’s mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications and educational opportunities. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources. It provides a network for scientists in academia, industry and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of the microbial sciences to diverse audiences.

Read the full ASMDL roster here and the ASM press release here.