Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease

Caitlin Pepperell, MD, is an infectious disease physician and internationally recognized expert on the evolution of bacterial pathogens.

Her National Institutes of Health-funded research program focuses on the ecology and evolution of human pathogens—promising tools in the search for improved methods to control and treat infectious diseases.

Dr. Caitlin Pepperell smiling and writing on a whiteboard

Research Overview

Dr. Pepperell’s research aims to understand how bacteria adapt to the pathogenic niche. Her team seeks to identify mechanisms of novel pathogen emergence, delineate how bacterial populations are structured and discover the genetic basis of traits such as tissue invasion and drug resistance.

Tools include evolve and re-sequence experiments for bacteria passaged under defined selective pressures, genome-wide association studies, and phenotypic characterization using advanced microscopy and other techniques.

Much of Dr. Pepperell’s work focuses on biofilms, the structured communities that are central to bacterial adaptation. Her team works with diverse bacterial species that illustrate the multiplicity of adaptive paths to virulence. They complement this work with studies of disease ecology and the human genetic basis of susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Pepperell Research Page (Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology)

Pepperell Research Website