I am a board-cetrified Clinical Microbiologist with research interest in novel applications of molecular techniques in diagnostic microbiology. I earned my MD from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran. I completed my PhD in Medical Microbiology at the University of Manitoba, Canada in 2010 and briefly worked as a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Michelle Alfa's Microbiology Lab at St. Boniface Research Centre. After completion of my Clinical Microbiology Fellowship Training Program at the University of Manitoba, I became a certified diplomat of the American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) and a fellow of the Canadian College of Microbiologists (FCCM) in 2014. I am the General Manager of Gut Microbiome Laboratory at the University of Manitoba and a Reserach Scientist at the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM).
MY CURRENT RESEARCH
Microbiome of amniotic fluid and its role in preterm birth
Preterm birth is the leading cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality worldwide. About 10% of all newborns are born preterm many of which face lifelong disabilities. Microbial invasion of amniotic fluid is a major contributor of preterm birth. The host response to infection causes an inflammatory state that acts synergistically with microbial invasion to induce preterm birth and fetal damage. Accurate diagnosis of intra-amniotic infection is critical for improved maternal and neonatal outcomes.
Current methods for diagnosing intra-amniotic infection are traditional Gram-stain/culture of amniotic fluid and clinical signs of maternal or fetal infection. Clinical features are poorly sensitive for subclinical infection and traditional laboratory techniques are simplistic, time consuming, and lack sensitivity for fastidious organisms.
In recent years, high-throughput sequencing technologies have revolutionized our understanding of oral, gut and vaginal microbial communities and their effects on human health and disease, however, this technology has not been yet applied to amniotic fluid. My current research is to optimize Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) for the analysis of amniotic fluid, and to characterize its microbial composition and correlate it with the outcome of pregnancies (preterm vs. term birth).
Application of Whole Genome Amplificaion in diagnosis of pathogens directly from sterile body sites
Clinical Microbiology is a rapidly changing field and in recent years many molecular and proteomic approaches have found their way into the Clinical Microbiology laboratories, replacing conventional diagnostic testing that relied mostly on Gram-stain, culture and biochemical characteristics of organisms. For example, MALDI-TOF (matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight) has revolutionized the bacterial identification algorithm, replacing time-consuming and sometime hard-to-interpret biochemical reactions with a simple one-step proteomic profile identification of an organism in less than one minute.
Despite its many benefits, MALDI-TOF bacterial identification still requires a cultured colony and therefore requires growth on media. This is a disadvantage not only because patients will loose valuable time (at least 24 hours), but since it affects identification of organisms that are difficult to grow in vitro (e.g. Mycoplasma spp., Ureaplasma spp). To address this issue, I am currently working to optimize a Whole Genome Amplification (WGA) technique using isothermal multiple displacement to facilitate the bacterial identification directly (no need for culture) from clinical specimen. This is of particular benefit to patients who have potential infection of their sterile body sites (blood, CSF, amniotic fluid, tissue), where timely and appropriate treatment of the infection is crucial and can drastically change patients’ outcome.