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Chem, Bio departments host seminar on “evolutionary processes”

March 23, 2011

The Chemistry and Biology departments will be hosting a seminar by alumnus Dr. H. (Hank) Steven Seifert’77 tomorrow, from 12:30 p.m. until 1:20 p.m. in Science Center 150. Seiffert is a professor and associate chair of the Department of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and he will discuss evolutionary processes in a pathogen demonstrating unique molecular genetic processes.

See below for additional details and an excerpt from the abstract:

 “Evolutionary processes in a human-adapted bacterial pathogen demonstrate unique molecular genetic processes”

Neisseria gonorrhoeae  (the gonococcus) is the sole causative agent of the sexually transmitted infection, gonorrhea, and its closest relatives are all human specific organisms. A predecessor organism is thought to have entered into the human population hundreds of thousands of years ago and lost ability to grow outside of the human body. There are now many Neisseria species that reside only within humans. Most Neisseria are commensal organisms that live in the human nasopharynx. However, two species of Neisseria are major human pathogens. Neisseria meningitides (the meningococcus) is normally a commensal, but if it leaves the nasopharynx can cause very serious bacteremia or meningitis. The disease gonorrhea has been described throughout human history, therefore it is postulated that a predecessor of the gonococcus switched from the nasopharynx to the human genital tract sometime in the last 20 to 200,000 years. Therefore, all the Neisseria have evolved to live exclusively within the protected confines of the human body and have evolved unique mechanisms to survive and thrive within humans.