Tonyia D. Eaves-Pyles, PhD

Tonyia D. Eaves-Pyles, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology & Immunology

Phone: (409) 772-9429
Fax: (409) 747-6869

Education: PhD, 1998, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio
BA, 1986, Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana

Overview: Pathogenic bacteria and their products induce innate immune response in the human host.

Research Interests

The major focus of my research is on lung and intestinal bacterial infections with an emphasis on the study of interactions between commensal and pathogenic bacteria at mucosal interfaces. I am investigating the ability to modulate excessive, damaging inflammation caused by invading pathogens to decrease morbidity and mortality. To this end, I identified on of the human cysteine inhibitors, cystatin 9, as a novel and effective immunotherapeutic approach to treat respiratory pathogens (i.e. F. tularensis, B. mallei and B. pseudomallei) as well as drug-resistant bacterial infections (i.e. K. pneumoniae) via modulation of pathogenic inflammation while promoting beneficial immune responses. I am also examining the effects of this multi-faceted human protein to minimize systemic infection, stabilize intestinal integrity/microbiome and damaging inflammation following thermal injury.

Most recently, I have been involved in collaborative research that was the first to establish a human vaginal mucosal culture model with an intact vaginal microbiome. With NIH funding, we developed a refined nasal epithelial cell culture system with an intact nasal microbiome for the purposes of identifying commensal bacteria that can competitively exclude MRSA S. aureus. As such, I am establishing a lung microbiome (collaborator Dr. Rick Pyles) in an engineered lung model developed by my collaborator Dr. Joan Nichols (UTMB), which we are utilizing to investigate how this biologically and clinically relevant model responds to respiratory pathogens.

I continue my long-time research focus on examining the role of flagellin in the development of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS) post-burn. My published work has reported that gut-derived bacteria and bacterial products escape the intestine via the intestinal lymphatics to the mesenteric lymph nodes and systemic circulation where they induce systemic inflammation and organ damage. This process is now known as translocation and is of growing interest in the study of the intestinal microbiome. We were among the first research teams to examine the gut microbiome following burn injury. As an outgrowth of our bacterial translocation research, I identified and reported the bioactive regions of the flagellin protein that induced innate immune responses in various in vitro and in vivo models. Therefore, the objective of one of my current studies is to determine the involvement of gut microbiome-derived flagellin in systemic post-burn pathogenesis in vitro and in vivo. We have termed this dissemination flagellemia: This research is translational with the potential to establish a novel therapeutic paradigm that will prevent the binding of flagellin to TLR5 reducing burn morbidity and mortality.

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