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Rachel Ende, PhD, Postdoctoral Scholar in the lab of CIMAR’s Dr. Joan Mecsas, studying mechanisms of synergistic antibiotic interactions against Klebsiella pneumoniae in the lungs

Spring 2023 Featured Trainee:

Rachel Ende, PhD

  • Postdoctoral Scholar in the lab of Levy CIMAR’s Dr. Joan Mecsas, studying mechanisms of synergistic antibiotic interactions against Klebsiella pneumoniae in the lungs.
  • First-year IRACDA fellow who will soon develop a course at either UMass Boston or Bunker Hill Community College

Rachel Ende is a first-year postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Levy CIMAR’s Joan Mecsas, PhD, at Tufts University’s School of Medicine’s Department of Molecular Biology and MIcrobiology. She is investigating the mechanisms of synergistic antibiotic interactions against Klebsiella pneumoniae, a gram-negative pathogen that can cause opportunistic infections. K. pneumoniae has been increasingly recognized as an urgent public health threat due to the rising prevalence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) strains. However, clinical studies suggest that using multiple antibiotics that act synergistically in infected tissues is an effective option for treatment for MDR K. pneumoniae.

Previous research by the Mecsas lab in collaboration with the Bree Aldridge lab used diagonal measurement of n-way drug interactions (DiaMOND), a methodology developed by the Aldridge lab, to identify synergistic, additive, or antagonistic interactions of antibiotic combinations against K. pneumoniae grown in standard Cation-Adjusted Mueller Hinton Broth (CAMHB) or a lung mimetic medium. (Click to learn more about DiaMOND.) These findings suggest that antibiotic synergy is highly growth condition specific for K. pneumoniae. Rachel’s goal is to understand why specific combinations of antibiotics interact synergistically, and uncover the bacterial processes that are targeted by these antibiotic combinations. Understanding these vulnerabilities could provide valuable insight into the physiology of K. pneumoniae in mammalian hosts and additional means to target MDR K. pneumoniae.

Rachel is also working in collaboration with the multi-institution Center for Innovation to Transform Antibiotic Discovery (CITADel) to identify small molecules that act synergistically with antibiotics and improve treatment of K. pneumoniae and other hospital-acquired bacterial infections such as Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Prior to joining the Mecsas Lab, Rachel earned her PhD in the lab of Isabelle Derré, PhD, at the University of Virginia’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology. Her graduate research focused on how the obligate intracellular pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis manipulates the host cell environment to establish its replicative niche. Rachel characterized host and bacterial glycolysis during C. trachomatisinfection and showed that multiple host glycolytic enzymes are recruited by C. trachomatis during infection. Her graduate work also characterized how hosphor-regulation accommodates Type III secretion and assembly of a C. trachomatis tether complex with the host endoplasmic reticulum.

In addition to her work in the lab, Rachel is passionate about teaching and mentorship, and is a part of the Tufts IRACDA (Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards) Chapter. She has taught Introductory Microbiology and Biology laboratory courses and enjoys mentoring undergraduate and junior graduate students. As an IRACDA fellow, Rachel is excited to continue to develop as a teacher and mentor through developing a course at UMass Boston or Bunker Hill Community college. She hopes to remain in academia and establish her own research lab.

Outside of the lab, Rachel enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with friends. Rachel also enjoys singing and was in an acapella group throughout graduate school.