Lemon Lab

The long-term goal of the Lemon Lab is to make discoveries that will lead to new ways to prevent and treat infections by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumonia. To achieve this, we focus on understanding the molecular mechanisms of interspecies interactions in the human nasal microbiome where both pathogens commonly reside. 

Our Research 

We use a multi-disciplinary approach that includes bacterial genetics, molecular biology, small molecule discovery, microbial ecology and the newer -omics to gain an in-depth understanding of the role and dynamics of human microbiota in health and disease. We collaborate with natural products chemists, computational biologists, other clinicians and other microbiologists. In the Lemon Lab, researchers with prior experience in diverse areas of microbiology apply their skills to explore human-associated microbial populations. In addition to the upper respiratory tract, members of the lab also study adjacent habitats, such as the mouth and skin.

Among the common constituents of healthy upper respiratory tract microbiota are some of the most significant bacterial pathogens, e.g. Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae. The carriage rate and disease burden of these pathogens is particularly high in children. The emergence and spread of antibiotic resistant clones, such as community acquired-methicillin resistant S. aureus (CA-MRSA), accentuates the urgent need for new therapies to both treat and prevent these infections. Interestingly, some people do not carry either S. aureus or S. pneumoniae and are, therefore, at lower risk for infection. Additionally, a number of other commensal/mutualistic bacteria colonize the same body sites as S. aureus and S. pneumoniae and together these microbes likely constitute a long-standing and co-evolving microbial community. We hypothesize that among the constituents of nostril and throat microbiota, there are beneficial microbes that interfere with pathogen carriage. Such beneficial bacteria could be the basis for novel small molecule and probiotic therapies to both prevent and treat infections.