Research

The Division maintains consistent funding for ongoing investigations relating to HIV and other areas of infectious diseases. The Division has had an important and productive role in large, multicenter collaborative research groups that emphasize development of treatment and prevention modalities for HIV infection and complications associated with antiretroviral therapy and the underlying disease as well as other bacterial, fungal, and viral infections in HIV- patient populations.

Faculty Research Areas

Emily Blodget, MD

Dr. Blodget has initiated research on the incidence and outcomes of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE) infection in patients with cirrhosis who are awaiting liver transplantation. She is conducting a large ongoing retrospective study in these patients to determine the risk factors as well as morbidity and mortality of VRE infection. She is planning on expanding these studies to include other multi-drug resistant organisms such as pseudomonas and ESBL E. coli. She is continuing to develop research plans to evaluate the effectiveness of screening liver transplant candidates with interferon gamma release assay versus standard PPD testing and outcomes after transplant.

Joseph J. Cadden, MD

Dr. Cadden is conducting several important studies. He serves as Co-PI with Amy Wohl, PhD (Chief Epidemiologist in the HIV Epidemiology Program, Los Angeles County Department of Health Services), on an NIH-funded investigation to evaluate and develop better social support services for persons with HIV. He is also a member of the protocol team for ACTG 5293, which evaluates the effect of HDL-raising therapies on endothelial function, lipoproteins and inflammation in HIV-infected subjects with low HDL cholesterol.

Michael P. Dubé, MD

Dr. Dubé’s research interests focus on the complications of HIV infection as well as on HIV prevention. He has been the USC PI of the California Collaborative Treatment Group (CCTG) for HIV research since 2009; the CCTG is the largest collaborative HIV clinical research group in California and is funded by the California HIV Research Program. Currently, Dr. Dubé is wrapping up a major 4-year CCTG project at USC to improve patient retention in HIV care and to optimize HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to individuals at high risk of acquiring HIV. As part of this project, Dr. Dubé is leading a study of vitamin D supplementation to preserve bone health in this population. He was just awarded a new 4-year CCTG grant that will focus on PrEP in transgender persons. He is also an active member of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group and is protocol co-chair for the ongoing ACTG 5346 study “A Randomized, Blinded Placebo-Controlled Trial of a Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4 Inhibitor (Sitagliptin, Januvia) for Reducing Inflammation and Immune Activation in HIV Infected Men and Women”.

Jan Geiseler, MD

Dr. Geiseler continued his role as Co-Investigator in ACTG and CCTG studies that evaluate antiretroviral therapy utilizing new treatment and prevention strategies for patients infected with HIV. Dr. Geiseler was the USC PI for two important ACTG trials, A5175 and A5202, which evaluated the efficacy of once daily protease inhibitor and once daily non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-containing therapy in combination with nucleoside analogues. These studies resulted in impact bearing publications. More recently he has been working with ID fellows and colleagues in other departments to investigate how to better manage patients with transplant infections.

Paul D. Holtom, MD

Dr. Holtom is Director of the Jeanette Wilkins Memorial Microbiology Laboratory. He collaborates with faculty in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery on clinical studies of new treatment strategies for bone and joint infections. These studies include evaluation of new antimicrobials for skin and soft-tissue infections and in vitro and in vivo studies on local antibiotic therapy and the elution of antibiotics from PMMA beads and spacers. Dr. Holtom also conducts studies with ID fellows on the epidemiology of nosocomial bacterial infections and invasive candidal disease.

Brenda E. Jones, MD

Dr. Jones is the USC Principal Investigator of the tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic study, “Evaluation of the 4th Generation Quantiferon TB Test (CST001) for the Detection of Tuberculosis Infection” (Cellestis, Qiagen NV, the Netherlands). The 4th Generation Quantiferon TB test aims to further increase the sensitivity of the assay in immunocompromised patients as well as to possibly aid in differentiating latent TB infection from active TB disease. Dr. Jones will also investigate Mycobacterium Tuberculosis CD8 cell response as a surrogate marker for TB treatment response. Dr. Jones is a co-investigator of the NIH R01 proposal entitled, “Integrated Cost-Effective Point of Care Nucleic Acid Testing for TB Diagnosis” (PI: Niemz, Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont), which received an impact score of 29. Future collaborative studies on TB diagnostics are planned.

Dr. Jones was co-investigator with Dr. Michael Neely (PI), Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, for the NIH funded “Prospective Study to Optimize Vancomycin Dosing in Children and Adults using Multiple-Model Bayesian Adaptive Control.” The finding that vancomycin troughs were not adequate for optimal dosing in 90 patients enrolled at LAC+USC was submitted for presentation. Dr. Jones also participated in the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation Physicians Roundtable on Antibiotic Resistance.

Fred R. Sattler, MD

In addition to serving as PI of the USC ACTG grant, Dr. Sattler recently served on a NIAID Task Force that was ordered by the President to design the first therapeutic trials to study new treatments of H1N1 and seasonal influenza. In the ACTG, Dr. Sattler is voting member of the Inflammation and End Organ Transformative Sciences Group. He is also a member and facilitator for the Immune Activation Focus Group and Co-Chair of the Exercise Focus Group. In addition, Dr. Sattler (PI) along with collaborators at University of California, San Diego showed that neurocognitive dysfunction in patients with HIV is aggravated by abdominal obesity and mediated by systemic inflammation and is associated with CNS activation of microglial cells. The latter studies results in his obtaining an R01 grant to evaluate the growth hormone releasing factor (Tesamorelin) to assess its efficacy in increasing the powerful IGF-1 brain neurotroph and reducing visceral adipose tissue in abdominally obese HIV infected patients with neurocognitive impairment. Dr. Sattler also has two foundation grants to study the effects of sitagliptin for suppressing macrophage activation in abdominal adipose tissue and its effects on proatherogenic mediators. Finally, Dr. Sattler was recently honored by a request from the editorial board of Elsevier to write a peer-reviewed overview on growth hormone in the aging male for Best Practices & Research: Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Brad Spellberg, MD

Dr. Spellberg’s NIH-funded research interests are diverse, ranging from basic immunology and vaccinology, to pure clinical and outcomes research, to process improvement work related to delivery of care, focusing on safety net hospitals. Dr. Spellberg is currently working on the immunology, vaccinology, and host defense against highly resistant Gram negative bacilli, including Acinetobacter and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae infections. He has an active discovery and development program that has been NIH-funded for monoclonal antibodies targeting A. baumannii. He also is working on the pathogenesis of these infections, including the interface between diabetes, inflammation, and iron. He has an NIH-funded translational program evaluating transferrin as a potential therapeutic agent to treat infections and reduce the frequency of emergence of antibiotic resistance. His lab also has an NIH grant to evaluate a multi-valent antigen approach to vaccination for S. aureus infections. He has several clinical research projects in development, funded by NIH, including a randomized trial of fosfomycin therapy for complicated urinary tract infections which is in protocol development, and an adaptive, platform trial to enable superiority trials to be conducted for highly resistant Gram negative bacilli, which is in the design phase. The over-arching theme of the work in his lab is to understand the pathogenesis of infections caused by highly resistant bacteria, as well as fungi, with an intent to develop immune-modulatory therapeutic interventions to improve morbidity and mortality of these infections.

Darren W. Wong, MD

Darren Wong is a new junior faculty member in the Division of Infectious Diseases. He is actively involved in infection control and antimicrobial stewardship, and integrating both programs to optimize clinical care. Dr. Wong has initiated research examining empiric gram negative therapy for sepsis with the goal of improving risk stratification to identify patients with potential drug resistant pathogens, optimizing empiric antimicrobial therapy, and integrating these findings into the existing antimicrobial stewardship program. He is also the Principal Investigator in the consortium on resistance against carbapenems in Klebsiella pneumoniae (CRACKLE) an NIH and Antibiotic Resistance Leadership Group funded multi-center national study analyzing the epidemiology and regional resistance patterns of these extensively-drug resistant bacterium. He is, under the mentorship of Dr. Brad Spellberg, participating in the FOCUS trial, examining the efficacy the potential role of fosfomycin for new treatment indications. Future plans include serving as an investigator for phase 3 clinical trials of experimental antimicrobial therapeutic agents and resuming Clostridium difficile clinical research, an area of his research prior to joining the USC faculty.