David H Walker

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston, Texas, United States

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Publications (145)768.78 Total impact

  • The Journal of infectious diseases. 07/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Orientia tsutsugamushi, the etiologic agent of scrub typhus, is a mite-borne rickettsia transmitted by the parasitic larval stage of trombiculid mites. Approximately one-third of the world's population is at risk of infection with Orientia tsutsugamushi, emphasizing its importance in global health. In order to study scrub typhus, Orientia tsutsugamushi Karp strain has been used extensively in mouse studies with various inoculation strategies and little success in inducing disease progression similar to that of human scrub typhus. The objective of this project was to develop a disease model with pathology and target cells similar to those of severe human scrub typhus. This study reports an intravenous infection model of scrub typhus in C57BL/6 mice. This mouse strain was susceptible to intravenous challenge, and lethal infection occurred after intravenous inoculation of 1.25×106 focus (FFU) forming units. Signs of illness in lethally infected mice appeared on day 6 with death occurring ∼6 days later. Immunohistochemical staining for Orientia antigens demonstrated extensive endothelial infection, most notably in the lungs and brain. Histopathological analysis revealed cerebral perivascular, lymphohistiocytic infiltrates, focal hemorrhages, meningoencephalitis, and interstitial pneumonia. Disseminated infection of endothelial cells with Orientia in C57BL/6 mice resulted in pathology resembling that of human scrub typhus. The use of this model will allow detailed characterization of the mechanisms of immunity to and pathogenesis of O. tsutsugamushi infection.
    PLoS neglected tropical diseases. 07/2014; 8(7):e2966.
  • Lucas S Blanton, David H Walker, Donald H Bouyer
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Tick-borne diseases, such as spotted fever rickettsioses and ehrlichioses, are potentially severe and life-threatening infections. The incidences of these infections increase during warm weather months as ticks become active. Clinicians often consider outdoor activities in rural areas to be a risk factor for exposure to ticks and the pathogens they carry, but are those who live, work, and play within an urban environment excluded from this risk? In this study, we collected ticks from two urban parks in Little Rock, AR, to assess the presence of rickettsiae and ehrlichiae within an urban setting. A total of 273 ticks were collected during July, 2011. Amblyomma americanum was the predominant tick species, with 255 (93%) of those collected. The remaining 18 (7%) were Dermacentor variabilis. Ticks were separated and pooled into groups for further testing. Forty-two of the 43 (98%) A. americanum pools demonstrated molecular evidence for the presence of rickettsiae. None of the D. variabilis contained rickettsiae. Restriction enzyme fragment length polymorphism analysis and DNA sequencing revealed Rickettsia amblyommii to be the species present. One A. americanum pool from park A demonstrated the presence of Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the pathogen responsible for human monocytotropic ehrlichiosis. These results indicate that tick-borne pathogens are not limited to rural or suburban areas.
    Vector borne and zoonotic diseases (Larchmont, N.Y.) 02/2014; 14(2):168-70. · 2.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report here the complete genome sequence of Ehrlichia muris strain AS145(T), which was isolated from a wild mouse in 1983 in Japan. E. muris establishes persistent infections in laboratory mice and is widely used as a surrogate pathogen in a murine model of ehrlichiosis.
    Genome announcements. 01/2014; 2(1).
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    ABSTRACT: Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV) is a newly discovered Phlebovirus causing an emerging hemorrhagic fever in East Asia with reported case fatality rates up to 30%. Despite the high case fatality rate and large number of persons at risk of infection, the pathobiology of the disease is unknown, and no effective animal model has been available for investigating the pathogenesis of the disease. We have studied mice and hamsters as potential small animal models of SFTSV infection following subcutaneous, intraperitoneal or intracerebral inoculation. Animal tissues were processed for viral load, histopathology, immunohistochemistry, confocal and electron microscopic studies. We found that immunocompetent adult mice and hamsters did not become ill after SFTSV infection. However, alpha/beta interferon receptor (IFNAR(-/-)) knockout mice were highly susceptible to SFTSV infection, and all mice died within 3-4 days after subcutaneous inoculation of 10(6) ffu of SFTSV. Histologic examination of tissues of IFNAR(-/-)mice infected with SFTSV showed no detectable lesions. In contrast, by immunohistochemistry virus antigen was found in liver, intestine, kidney, spleen, lymphoid tissue, and brain, but not in the lungs. Mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen were the most heavily infected tissues. Quantitative RT-PCR confirmed the presence of virus in these same tissues. Confocal microscopy showed that SFTSV colocalized with reticular cells, but did not colocalize with dendritic cells, monocytes/macrophages, neutrophils or endothelium. Our results indicate that SFTSV multiplied in all organs except for lungs and that mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen were the most heavily infected tissues. The major target cells of SFTSV appear to be reticular cells in lymphoid tissues of intestine and spleen.
    Journal of Virology 11/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Rickettsiae are responsible for some of the most devastating human infections. A high infectivity and severe illness after inhalation make some rickettsiae bioterrorism threats. We report that deletion of the exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac) gene, Epac1, in mice protects them from an ordinarily lethal dose of rickettsiae. Inhibition of Epac1 suppresses bacterial adhesion and invasion. Most importantly, pharmacological inhibition of Epac1 in vivo using an Epac-specific small-molecule inhibitor, ESI-09, completely recapitulates the Epac1 knockout phenotype. ESI-09 treatment dramatically decreases the morbidity and mortality associated with fatal spotted fever rickettsiosis. Our results demonstrate that Epac1-mediated signaling represents a mechanism for host-pathogen interactions and that Epac1 is a potential target for the prevention and treatment of fatal rickettsioses.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 11/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Ehrlichioses are emerging tick-borne bacterial diseases of humans and animals for which no vaccines are available. The diseases are caused by obligately intracellular bacteria belonging to the genus Ehrlichia. Several immunoreactive proteins of ehrlichiae have been identified based on their reactivity with immune sera from human patients and animals. These include the major outer membrane proteins, ankyrin repeat proteins and tandem repeat proteins (TRP). Polyclonal antibodies directed against the tandem repeats (TRs) of Ehrlichia chaffeensis TRP32, TRP47 and TRP120 have been shown to provide protection in mice. In the present study, we evaluated E. muris P29, which is the ortholog of E. chaffeensis TRP47 and E. canis TRP36, as a subunit vaccine in a mouse model of ehrlichiosis. Our study indicated that unlike E. chaffeensis TRP47 and E. canis TRP36, orthologs of E. muris (P29) and E. muris-like agent (EMLA) do not contain tandem repeats. Immunization of mice with recombinant E. muris P29 induced significant protection against a challenge infection. The protection induced by E. muris P29 was associated with induction of strong antibody responses. In contrast to development of P29-specific IgG antibodies following immunization, development of P29-specific IgG antibodies, but not IgM antibodies, was impaired during persistent E. muris infection. Furthermore, our study indicated that CD4+ T cells target P29 during E. muris infection and differentiate into IFN-γ-producing Th1 effector/memory cells. In conclusion, our study indicated that orthologs of E. muris P29 showed considerable variation in the central tandem repeat region among different species, induction of P29-specific IgG antibody response was impaired during persistent E. muris infection, and rP29 induced protective immune responses.
    Vaccine 10/2013; · 3.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human infections with arthropod-borne Rickettsia species remain a major global health issue, causing significant morbidity and mortality. Epidemic typhus due to Rickettsia prowazekii has an established reputation as the 'scourge of armies', and as a major determinant of significant 'historical turning points'. No suitable vaccines for human use are currently available to prevent rickettsial diseases. The unique lifestyle features of rickettsiae include obligate intracellular parasitism, intracytoplasmic niche within the host cell, predilection for infection of microvascular endothelium in mammalian hosts, association with arthropods and the tendency for genomic reduction. The fundamental research in the field of Rickettsiology has witnessed significant recent progress in the areas of pathogen adhesion/invasion and host immune responses, as well as the genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, phylogenetics, motility and molecular manipulation of important rickettsial pathogens. The focus of this review article is to capture a snapshot of the latest developments pertaining to the mechanisms of rickettsial pathogenesis and immunity.
    Future Microbiology 10/2013; 8:1265-88. · 4.02 Impact Factor
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    The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 08/2013; 89(2):301-7. · 2.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lassa fever (LF) is a potentially lethal human disease that is caused by the arenavirus, Lassa virus (LASV). Annually, around 300,000 infections with up to 10,000 deaths occur in endemic regions of West Africa. Here we demonstrate that mice lacking a functional STAT1 pathway are highly susceptible to infection with LASV and develop lethal disease with pathology similar to that reported in humans.
    Journal of Virology 07/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Microvascular endothelial barrier dysfunction is the central enigma in spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsioses. Angiogenin (ANG) is one of the earliest identified angiogenic factors, of which some are relevant to the phosphorylation of VE-cadherins that serve as endothelial adherens proteins. Although exogenous ANG is known to translocate into the nucleus of growing endothelial cells (ECs) where it plays a functional role, nuclear ANG is not detected in quiescent ECs. Besides its nuclear role, ANG is thought to play a cytoplasmic role, owing to its RNase activity that cleaves tRNA to produce small RNAs. Recently, such tRNA-derived RNA fragments (tRFs) have been shown to be induced under stress conditions. All these observations raise an intriguing hypothesis about a novel cytoplasmic role of ANG, which is induced upon infection with Rickettsia and generates tRFs that may play roles in SFG rickettsioses. C3H/HeN mice were infected intravenously with a sublethal dose of R. conorii. At days 1, 3, and 5 post infection (p.i.), liver, lung and brain were collected for immunofluorescence (IF) studies of R. conorii and angiogenin (ANG). Human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were infected with R. conorii for 24, 48, and 72 hrs before incubation with 1mug/ml recombinant human ANG (rANG) in normal medium for 2 hrs. HUVEC samples were subjected to IF, exogenous ANG translocation, endothelial permeability, and immunoprecipitation phosphorylation assays. To identify small non-coding RNAs (sncRNAs) upon rickettsial infection, RNAs from pulverized mouse lung tissues and HUVECs were subjected to library preparation and deep sequencing analysis using an Illumina 2000 instrument. Identified sncRNAs were confirmed by Northern hybridization, and their target mRNAs were predicted in silico using BLAST and RNA hybrid programs. In the present study, we have demonstrated endothelial up-regulation of ANG, co-localized with SFG rickettsial infection in vivo. We also have provided direct evidence that rickettsial infection sensitizes human ECs to the translocation of exogenous ANG in a compartmentalized pattern at different times post-infection. Typically, exogenous ANG translocates into the nucleus at 24 hrs and to the cytoplasm at 72 hrs post-infection. The ANG cytoplasmic translocation enhances phosphorylation and destabilization of VE-cadherin and attenuates endothelial barrier function. Of note, deep sequencing analysis detected tRFs, mostly derived from the 5'-halves of host tRNAs, that are induced by ANG. Northern hybridization validates the two most abundantly cloned tRFs derived from tRNA-ValGTG and tRNA-GlyGCC, in both mouse tissues and human cells. Bioinformatics analysis predicted that these tRFs may interact with transcripts associated with the endothelial barrier, the host cell inflammatory response, and autophagy. Our data provide new insight into the role of compartmentalized ANG during SFG rickettsioses, and highlight its possible mediation through tRFs.
    BMC Infectious Diseases 06/2013; 13(1):285. · 3.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the humoral immune response against different species of Rickettsia in serum samples from small rodents collected in two areas of a silent focus for Brazilian spotted fever in the eastern region of Minas Gerais State, Brazil. Sera samples were analyzed by indirect immunofluorescence assay using antigens from Rickettsia species of the spotted fever, ancestral, and transition groups. Titers ≥ 1:64 were considered positive. In Santa Cruz do Escalvado, 94% (30 of 32) of the samples collected from Rattus rattus, 22% (5 of 23) from Nectomys squamipes, and 80% (4 of 5) from Akodon sp., reacted by indirect immunofluorescence assay with Rickettsia antigens of the spotted fever group. In the municipality of Pingo D'Água, 84% (26 of 31) of the samples collected from R. rattus, 86% (6 of 7) of the samples from Oryzomys subflavus, 86% (6 of 7) from N. squamipes, and 100% (1 of 1) from Bolomys sp. contained antibodies that reacted with rickettsial antigens of the spotted fever group. These results demonstrated the previous exposure of small rodents to spotted fever group Rickettsia, suggesting the participation of these animals in the natural history of these rickettsiae in this region.
    The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 03/2013; · 2.53 Impact Factor
  • Slobodan Paessler, David H Walker
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    ABSTRACT: Four families of enveloped RNA viruses, filoviruses, flaviviruses, arenaviruses, and bunyaviruses, cause hemorrhagic fevers. These viruses are maintained in specific natural cycles involving nonhuman primates, bats, rodents, domestic ruminants, humans, mosquitoes, and ticks. Vascular instability varies from mild to fatal shock, and hemorrhage ranges from none to life threatening. The pathogenic mechanisms are extremely diverse and include deficiency of hepatic synthesis of coagulation factors owing to hepatocellular necrosis, cytokine storm, increased permeability by vascular endothelial growth factor, complement activation, and disseminated intravascular coagulation in one or more hemorrhagic fevers. The severity of disease caused by these agents varies tremendously; there are extremely high fatality rates in Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers, and asymptomatic infection predominates in yellow fever and dengue viral infections. Although ineffective immunity and high viral loads are characteristic of several viral hemorrhagic fevers, severe plasma leakage occurs at the time of viral clearance and defervescence in dengue hemorrhagic fever. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease Volume 8 is January 24, 2013. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
    Annual Review of Pathology Mechanisms of Disease 11/2012; · 25.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Ehrlichia chaffeensis is a bacterial pathogen that causes fatal human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) that mimic toxic shock-like syndrome. Murine studies indicate that over activation of cellular immunity followed by immune suppression plays a central role in mediating tissue injury and organ failure during fatal HME. However, there are no human studies that examine the correlates of resistance or susceptibility to severe and fatal HME. RESULTS: In this study, we compared the immune responses in two patients with mild/non fatal and severe/fatal HME who had marked lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia and elevated liver enzymes. The levels of different immunological factors in the blood of those patients were examined and compared to healthy controls. Our data showed that fatal HME is associated with defective production of Th1 cytokines such as ( IFNgamma and IL-2), increased anti-inflammatory (IL-10 and IL-13) and pro-inflammatory (TNF-alpha, IL-1alpha, IL-1beta, and IL-6) cytokines, increased levels of macrophages, T cells, and NK cells chemokines such as MCP-1, MIP-1alpha, MIP-1beta but not RANTES and IP-10, increased levels of neutrophils chemokine and growth factor (IL-8 and G-CSF), and elevated expression of tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR), and toll like receptors 2 and 4 compared to patients with non fatal HME and healthy controls. CONCLUSIONS: Fatal Ehrlichia-induced toxic shock is associated with defective Th1 responses, possible immune suppression mediated by IL-10. In addition, marked leukopenia observed in patients with fatal disease could be attributed to enhanced apoptosis of leukocytes and/or elevated chemokine production that could promote migration of immune cells to sites of infection causing tissue injury.
    BMC Immunology 05/2012; 13(1):26. · 2.61 Impact Factor
  • Rong Fang, Nahed Ismail, David H Walker
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    ABSTRACT: We investigated the mechanisms by which natural killer (NK) cells mediate innate host defense against infection with an endothelium-targeting intracellular bacterium, Rickettsia. We found that a robust Rickettsia-induced innate response in resistant mice cleared the bacteria early in the infection and was associated with significantly higher frequencies of splenic interferon (IFN)-γ (+) CD8(+) T cells and cytotoxic NK cells compared with susceptible mice. More importantly, NK cell-deficient Rag(-/-)γc(-/-) animals displayed significantly increased susceptibility to Rickettsia infection compared with NK cell-sufficient Rag(-/-) mice, as evidenced by impaired bacterial clearance, early development of severe thrombosis in the liver, and a decreased serum level of IFN-γ. Furthermore, the lack of NK cells also impaired host resistance of CB-17 scid mice to Rickettsia, similar to what was observed in Rag(-/-)γc(-/-) mice. Interestingly, perforin deficiency in Rag(-/-)Prf1(-/-) mice resulted in greater thrombosis and insignificantly different systemic levels of IFN-γ compared with Rag(-/-) mice, suggesting that perforin, which is mainly produced by NK cells, is involved in the prevention of vascular damage. Together, these findings reveal that NK cells mediate the innate phase of host protection against infection with rickettsiae, most likely via IFN-γ production. Furthermore, NK cells are involved in preventing rickettsial infection-induced endothelial cell damage, possibly via perforin production.
    American Journal Of Pathology 05/2012; 181(1):185-95. · 4.52 Impact Factor
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    Xue-jie Yu, David H. Walker
    01/2012; , ISBN: 978-953-51-0205-2
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    Nadezhda E Yun, David H Walker
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    ABSTRACT: Lassa virus, an Old World arenavirus (family Arenaviridae), is the etiological agent of Lassa fever, a severe human disease that is reported in more than 100,000 patients annually in the endemic regions of West Africa with mortality rates for hospitalized patients varying between 5-10%. Currently, there are no approved vaccines against Lassa fever for use in humans. Here, we review the published literature on the life cycle of Lassa virus with the specific focus put on Lassa fever pathogenesis in humans and relevant animal models. Advancing knowledge significantly improves our understanding of Lassa virus biology, as well as of the mechanisms that allow the virus to evade the host's immune system. However, further investigations are required in order to design improved diagnostic tools, an effective vaccine, and therapeutic agents.
    Viruses 01/2012; 4(10):2031-48. · 2.51 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Due to its strong immune stimulatory effects through TLR9, CpG-containing oligodeoxynucleotides (CpG ODN) have been tested in multiple clinical trials as vaccine adjuvant for infectious diseases and cancer. However, immune suppression induced by systemic administration of CpGs has been reported recently. In this study, we evaluated the impact of CpGs in an acute rickettsiosis model. We found that systemic treatment with type B CpG (CpG-B), but not type A CpG (CpG-A), at 2 days after sublethal R. australis infection induced mouse death. Although wild-type (WT) B6 and IDO(-/-) mice showed similar survival rates with three different doses of R. australis infection, treatment with CpG-B after sublethal infection consistently induced higher mortality with greater tissue bacterial loads in WT but not IDO(-/-) mice. Also, CpG-B treatment promoted the development of higher serum concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines through IDO. Furthermore, while T cell-mediated immune responses enhanced by CpG-B were independent of IDO, treatment with CpG-B promoted T cell activation, PD-1 expression and cell apoptosis partially through IDO. A depletion study using anti-mPDCA-1 mAb indicated that plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC) were not required for CpG-B-induced death of R. australis-infected mice. Additionally, the results in iNOS(-/-) mice suggested that nitric oxide (NO) was partially involved in CpG-B-induced death of R. australis-infected mice. Surprisingly, pre-treatment with CpG-B before administration of a lethal dose of R. australis provided effective immunity in WT, IDO(-/-) and iNOS(-/-) mice. Taken together, our study provides evidence that CpGs exert complex immunological effects by both IDO-dependent and -independent mechanisms, and that systemic treatment with CpGs before or after infection has a significant and distinct impact on disease outcomes.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(3):e34062. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human rickettsial diseases comprise a variety of clinical entities caused by microorganisms belonging to the genera Rickettsia, Orientia, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma. These microorganisms are characterized by a strictly intracellular location which has, for long, impaired their detailed study. In this paper, the critical steps taken by these microorganisms to play their pathogenic roles are discussed in detail on the basis of recent advances in our understanding of molecular Rickettsia-host interactions, preferential target cells, virulence mechanisms, three-dimensional structures of bacteria effector proteins, upstream signalling pathways and signal transduction systems, and modulation of gene expression. The roles of innate and adaptive immune responses are discussed, and potential new targets for therapies to block host-pathogen interactions and pathogen virulence mechanisms are considered.
    Clinical and Developmental Immunology 01/2012; 2012:967852. · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    Gustavo Valbuena, David H Walker
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    ABSTRACT: Scrub typhus is a severe mite-borne infection caused by Orientia tsutsugamushi, an obligately intracellular bacterium closely related to Rickettsia. The disease explains a substantial proportion of acute undifferentiated febrile cases that require hospitalization in rural areas of Asia, the North of Australia, and many islands of the Pacific Ocean. Delayed antibiotic treatment is common due to the lack of effective commercially available diagnostic tests and the lack of specificity of the early clinical presentation. The systemic infection of endothelial cells that line the vasculature with Orientia can lead to many complications and fatalities. In survivors, immunity does not last long, and is poorly cross-reactive among numerous strains. In addition, chronic infections are established in an unknown number of patients. All those characteristics justify the pursuit of a prophylactic vaccine against O. tsutsugamushi; however, despite continuous efforts to develop such a vaccine since World War II, the objective has not been attained. In this review, we discuss the history of vaccine development against Orientia to provide a clear picture of the challenges that we continue to face from the perspective of animal models and the immunological challenges posed by an intracellular bacterium that normally triggers a short-lived immune response. We finish with a proposal for development of an effective and safe vaccine for scrub typhus through a new approach with a strong focus on T cell-mediated immunity, empirical testing of the immunogenicity of proteins encoded by conserved genes, and assessment of protection in relevant animal models that truly mimic human scrub typhus.
    Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology 01/2012; 2:170.

Publication Stats

3k Citations
768.78 Total Impact Points


  • 1995–2014
    • University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
      • Department of Pathology
      Galveston, Texas, United States
  • 2013
    • Mahidol University
      Krung Thep, Bangkok, Thailand
  • 2012
    • Università degli studi di Palermo
      • Dipartimento di Biomedico di Medicina Interna e Specialistica (Di.Bi.M.I.S.)
      Palermo, Sicily, Italy
  • 2009–2011
    • Meharry Medical College
      • Department of Pathology
      Nashville, Tennessee, United States
    • Anhui Center for Disease Control and Prevention
      Luchow, Anhui Sheng, China
  • 2010
    • Beijing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
      Peping, Beijing, China
  • 2004–2009
    • University of Buea
      • Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
      Buea, South-West Region, Cameroon
    • Fundação Ezequiel Dias
      Camelleira, Pernambuco, Brazil
  • 2008
    • Texas A&M University - Galveston
      Galveston, Texas, United States
    • National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge
      Oporto, Porto, Portugal
  • 2006
    • Autonomous University of Nuevo León
      San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León, Mexico
  • 2005–2006
    • Los Andes University (Colombia)
      Μπογκοτά, Bogota D.C., Colombia
    • Johns Hopkins University
      • Department of Pathology
      Baltimore, MD, United States
    • Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán
      • Centro de Investigaciones Regionales Dr. Hideyo Noguchi
      Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico
  • 2004–2005
    • University of São Paulo
      • Departamento de Medicina Veterinária Preventiva e Saúde Animal (VPS) (Sao Paulo)
      Ribeirão Preto, Estado de Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • 2003
    • Geelong Hospital
      Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  • 2002–2003
    • Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto
      • Department of Social and Clinical Nutrition(DENCS)
      Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil