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Professor Melinda A. Beck

Professor Beck’s interests focus on research exploration of the relationship between host nutrition and immune function and response to infectious disease. Research in the laboratory has demonstrated that host deficiencies in antioxidant nutrients lead to viral mutations which result in viruses becoming pathogenic. This was the first description of a specific host nutritional deficiency driving changes in a viral genome permitting an avirulent virus to acquire virulence. Professor Beck’s laboratory research suggests that host nutritional status can be a driving force for the emergence of infectious diseases. In addition, Professor Beck is studying the effects of obesity on the immune response. Her research indicates that diet-induced obese animals have a much higher mortality rate from influenza infection than lean animals. In translating the animal model to humans, her laboratory has found that following influenza vaccination, obese individuals are not able to sustain anti-flu antibodies to the same level as healthy weight individuals. Of particular note, T cells from obese and overweight individuals have a poor response to the pH1N1 strain of influenza, suggesting that obese and overweight individuals would be less able to respond to an influenza infection. The lab is currently focusing on the mechanisms for the impact of weight status on the poor vaccine response and the poor T cell response in obese and overweight individuals.

1 Course
200 Students