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Efrat Hamami, Molecular Microbiology PhD Candidate Working to Identify Vulnerabilities in Drug Resistant A. baumannii Isolates

Winter 2021 Featured Trainee:

Efrat Hamami

  • PhD Candidate in Molecular Microbiology – MERGE-ID (Medically-oriented Research in Graduate Education – Infectious Disease) track at Tufts University’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
  • Working in the lab of Levy CIMAR Director Ralph Isberg, PhD., to identify vulnerabilities in Acinetobacter baumannii isolates that have acquired resistance to antibiotics.

Efrat Hamami is a Molecular Microbiology PhD candidate in the Merge-ID (Medically-oriented Research in Graduate Education-Infectious Disease) track at Tufts University’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Under the tutelage of Levy CIMAR Director Dr. Ralph Isberg, Efrat is investigating Acinetobacter baumannii, a pathogen that poses a major threat to patients in hospital and other healthcare settings due to its ability to colonize indwelling devices and its high rates of multidrug resistance. As there are few treatment options, the bacterium is regarded as one for which the development of new improved therapies is critically important.

Efrat’s research focuses on identifying points of vulnerability in A. baumannii isolates that have acquired resistance through fluoroquinolone target site mutations and overexpression of drug egress pumps that contribute to resistance to a broad array of antibiotics. She is employing TnSeq, CRISPRi, and RNAseq technologies to uncover these vulnerabilities, and as a result,  novel antibiotics and/or new combination regimens could help treat otherwise drug-resistant A. baumannii infections. The Achilles heel for these resistant isolates likely lies in proteins involved in buffering the stress associated with efflux pump overproduction.

Outside of the lab, Efrat has taught introductory microbiology courses, mentored undergraduate students interested in the basic sciences, and has collaborated with other scientists focused on drug resistance evolution, including those from Levy CIMAR affiliate member Dr. Tim van Opijnen’s lab at Boston College. She is also part of a large collaborative team including researchers from Tufts, MIT, Harvard, Northwestern University, and several biotech companies driven to discover new antimicrobials for several tricky pathogens. Efrat has also served on the Organizing Committee for the Boston Bacterial Meeting, an annual conference that fosters new collaborations as it brings bacteriologists at all career levels together to share their work and interests.

Prior to joining Tufts, Efrat earned her B.S. in Zoology at the University of Maine in Orono.  There, she completed her senior capstone research with Dr. Seth Tyler in the School of Biology and Ecology examining the morphology of the stylet apparatus of Prorhynchus stagnalis, contributing to a manuscript that received a Reinhard Rieger-Award in Zoomorphology. This experience solidified her passion for research, while additional exposure to the fields of microbiology and infectious diseases during her undergraduate education helped her pinpoint that these areas of science piqued her interests most. She is very excited about her graduate thesis work and is eager to pursue similar translational work in the future.

Of course, Efrat’s interests aren’t solely based at the bench or in the classroom. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, wandering the outdoors, dancing, making jewelry, and painting.