Alexa R. Weingarden


     Year Entered: 2009

     Degrees Received:
     Harvard University
     Biology, Earth & Planetary Sciences major, East Asian Studies minor
     B.A. , 2008

     Honors and Awards:
-Medical School Honors, Years 1 and 2

     Thesis Advisor: Michael Sadowsky, Ph.D.

     Thesis Research:
     Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is an antibiotic-associated diarrheal
     disease which has rapidly increased in both incidence and severity since
     2000, and is now estimated to affect over half a million people in the US
     annually. Unfortunately, currently recommended antibiotic therapy for CDI is often ineffective, as 20-30% of patients experience recurrent CDI after the cessation of antibiotics. Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), where feces from a healthy donor are delivered to the distal GI tract of a CDI patient, is emerging as a highly effective treatment for recurrent CDI. Using high-throughput DNA sequencing, we have discovered that the fecal microbiota of patients comes to resemble the donor microbiota following FMT, and that this shift in microbial community is associated with recovery from CDI. However, it is not clearly understood how a change in the fecal microbiota leads to the elimination of C. difficile. My research project seeks to address this issue through emerging techniques designed to characterize the meta-transcriptional state of the fecal microbiome and resulting metabolic state of the host and microbes before and after FMT. The results of my project will not only allow us to refine our treatment of CDI, but will shed new light on the function of the human gut microbiota overall.

Publications (pubmed):

Hamilton MJ, Weingarden AR, Sadowsky MJ, Khoruts A. Standardized frozen preparation for transplantation of fecal microbiota for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection. Am J Gastroenterol 2012;107(5):761-767.