Congrats Tessa for winning the Presidential Fellowship, which is the most prestigious award given by the Graduate School!
Tessa’s Project: Examining the Role of Microbial Communities in AIDS-Resistant Sooty Mangabeys (Cercocebus atys)
This project’s central research question is: What factors shape SIV viral load in free-ranging sooty mangabeys and mangabeys under human care? Fecal and saliva samples will be collected from wild sooty mangabeys living in the Tai Forest, Ivory Coast, and captive sooty mangabeys housed at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, to identify shared and variable microbial taxa. Observational data will also be collected on variables such as diet, habitat disturbance or enclosure substrate, and frequency of social interaction. SIV viral load will be quantified for all fecal and saliva samples, as well as blood samples obtained from captive mangabeys. Finally, blood samples from captive sooty mangabeys will be subjected to flow cytometry to examine CD4+ T-cell counts, as well as CCR5+ receptor expression, as a measure of immune system modulation. Collectively, covariation in these variables will be analyzed to discern the possible emergent properties helping to maintain gut barrier integrity and mitigate immune activation in non-progressive SIV infection. This project has the potential to identify a mechanism of AIDS resistance, a finding which could have enormous consequences for human public health and the development of new microbial therapeutics.