Dr. Omsland conducts research on Coxiella burnetii and Chlamydia trachomatis.C. burnetii is a zoonotic pathogen that causes human Q fever.C. trachomatisis a leading cause of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as trachoma, a potentially blinding ocular infection most commonly diagnosed in developing countries.
Both C. burnetii and C. trachomatis are obligate intracellular bacterial parasites that depend on invasion of eukaryotic host cells to establish infection and complete their biphasic developmental, and infectious cycles. As parasites C. burnetii and C. trachomatis lack the ability to synthesize numerous nutrients but rather scavenge these from their host cells. Over the past few years Dr. Omsland’s research has focused on understanding physiochemical and nutritional requirements of obligate intracellular parasites and development of host cell-free (axenic) culture techniques to facilitate their physiological analyses. Moreover, axenic culture facilitates development of diagnostic, epidemiological and genetic tools for the study of these otherwise “hard-to-handle” pathogens. Long-term research interests include nutritional regulation of pathogen virulence and developmental cycles, and the metabolic basis of persistent infections.