James M. Fleckenstein, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine

Washington University in St. Louis (WU)

My research focuses on the molecular pathogenesis of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), a major cause of diarrheal mortality in developing countries. ETEC constitute a diverse E. coli “pathotype” sharing in the ability to deliver heat-labile (LT) and/or heat-stable (ST) toxins that cause watery cholera-like diarrhea characteristic of these pathogens. Although ETEC have been a target of vaccine development efforts for several decades, progress has been hampered by heterogeneity in key targets or incomplete protection afforded by anti-LT immunity, and the poor immunogenicity of ST. ??A variety of molecular techniques and models are used to elucidate the role of novel virulence factors in several key steps essential in the pathogenesis of these organisms.  Projects seek to accelerate identification of potential vaccine targets, and test these in preclinical models which examine immunogenicity and protective efficacy. Our long-term goal is to inform future vaccine development efforts for these important pathogens.