Jessica Snowden, M.D.

Central nervous system infections caused by staph
My current research focuses on the development and characterization of an animal model of central nervous system catheter infections, similar to the ventricular shunt infections that complicate the management of patients with hydrocephalus. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shunt infections are a frequent and serious complication in the treatment of hydrocephalus in the pediatric population. The most common organisms responsible for these central nervous system (CNS) catheter infections, S. epidermidis and S. aureus, are both known to form biofilms. The biofilm’s ability to evade the host immune response and antimicrobial agents makes it difficult to manage CNS catheter infections non-surgically, such that catheter removal is currently required to effectively treat these infections. While the growth characteristics and other adaptations of the bacteria required for biofilm formation are being extensively investigated by microbiologists, very little is known about the host interaction with the biofilm, particularly with regard to the immune response to catheter biofilm infections.

My laboratory is investigating the immune response within the CNS to a biofilm-mediated foreign body infection using a novel model of murine CNS catheter infection. We hypothesize that the host innate immune response is actively modulated in response to biofilm colonization of a CNS catheter. Establishment of this model provides a powerful tool to identify important factors in the host immune response to CNS biofilms. Understanding the interactions between the neuroimmune system and the biofilms that form on infected catheters will allow us to explore novel management strategies for these CNS infections that are classically recalcitrant to conventional antibiotic therapy.