Brazilian immunologist José Luís Fachi, PhD, will join the laboratory of Marco Colonna, MD, the Robert Rock Belliveau, MD, Professor of Pathology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, as a Pew Latin American Fellow in Biomedical Sciences. The program is designed to promote exchange and collaboration between investigators in the United States and Latin America. During the two-year fellowship, which begins in November, Fachi plans to study how metabolites produced by healthy gut bacteria promote intestinal immunity.
A postdoctoral researcher at the University of Campinas in São Paulo, Brazil, Fachi studies short-chain fatty acids that are produced when normal gut bacteria digest dietary fibers. In collaboration with Colonna, he discovered that feeding mice a kind of short-chain fatty acid protects them from infection with a diarrhea-causing bacterium by stimulating immune cells. During the fellowship, Fachi will study how the fatty acid activates mouse immune cells, and whether it has the same effect on immune cells from people. This work could lead to the development of new strategies for treating intestinal infections, particularly in people for whom standard antimicrobial therapies are ineffective.