Invasive infections caused by the encapsulated fungus Cryptococcus neoformans and its sister species, C. gattii, occur mainly in immunocompromised persons. For example, an estimated 180,000 HIV-infected persons die from cryptococcal meningitis annually, accounted for 15% of AIDS-related deaths. Despite the potential of reducing the global burden with vaccination, there are no fungal vaccines approved for clinical use. A major goal of our research program is the development of vaccines to protect at risk persons from cryptococcosis.
In collaboration with Gary Ostroff, we are identifying protein and peptide antigens that, when packaged in glucan particles, act as protective vaccines. In collaboration with Jennifer Lodge, we are studying vaccines consisting of whole Cryptococcus organisms attenuated by deletion of chitin deacetylase genes.