We are proud to congratulate our first lab member to graduate. Alyssa Ammazzalorso just graduated from Fordham's Honors Program as a Biology and Theology double major and the university's Valedictorian!
Alyssa was the first undergraduate student to join the lab in the fall of 2013, before the wet lab part even existed. She had spent the previous summer working in the Bronx Zoo's pathology lab with Dr. Dee McAloose and Tracie Seimon on qPCR identification of wildlife pathogens, such as the chytrid fungus, herpesviruses, and Mycoplasma in turtles.
Here she embarked on tick-borne disease projects. Her first project was on the optimization of DNA isolation from individual ticks for downstream experiments, such as Illumina high-throughput sequencing libraries for microbiome studies. This work was published in PeerJ.
After completing this project, Alyssa continued on a very important part of the tick-borne diseases transmission network – the most important reservoir species of the causative agent of Borrelia burgdorferi, the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). She examined white-footed mouse populations from metropolitan NYC and suburban forests to examine pathogen prevalence for bacteria B. burdgorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, and the apicomplexan parasite Babesia microti. After examining via qPCR TaqMan assays specific rodent organs for those three pathogens, she characterized the genetic diversity of those rodents and found genetic differentiation between urban and suburban populations. The most innovative part of her project was the characterization of the bacterial communities present in the intestines of those rodents. Interestingly, she found bacteria associated with human pathological conditions present in urban white-footed mice. Given recent evidence of an association between infection with Borrelia in European rodent species, e.g. bank voles, and alleles of the Toll-like receptor 2 gene (TLR2), she characrerized TLR2 diversity in urban and suburban white-footed mice.