On the front cover of PLoS Pathogens is a magnified image of a cross-section of cardiac tissue that has been damaged by the infiltration of bacteria. Up until this point, this image represented a phenomenon, which to Armand and his team, had never been
Although medical professionals understood that severe pneumonia could potentially lead to cardiac complications and heart failure, very little was known regarding the bacterium’s role in explaining how these complications developed. Through his research, Armand discovered that the bacterium was traveling to the heart, resulting in unique myocardial damage called cardiac microlesions. The bacteria within the microlesions were able to subvert the immune system leading to the formation of cardiac microlesions that disrupted the proper functioning of the heart.
Seeing these cardiac microlesions, Armand and his team began researching the mechanism that allowed the pneumococcus to gain access into the heart tissue. Moreover, the team was also able to identify those toxins that contributed to cell death. This new knowledge allowed them to test a new vaccine developed in collaboration with researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the UTHSCSA that would work to inhibit certain components of the bacterium needed for cardiac tissue invasion and cell death. Remarkably, mice that were immunized with this vaccine were strongly protected against cardiac microlesions.
Although this process has not been easy, Armand is ecstatic to see the fruits of his labor published in such a prestigious journal. He credits his awesome and supportive P.I. as well as his experiences in the Medical Care Intensive Care Unit at the Audie A. Murphy V.A. Hospital in San Antonio. This experience translated into experiments that were performed more effectively and that were clinically relevant. Moreover, this article has resulted in Armand receiving multiple postdoctoral offers at top laboratories! He has chosen to work in a lab at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. However, Armand’s greatest joy
is knowing that his research is making a difference in the lives of patients who are suffering from this terrible, infectious disease.