Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher Jeffrey Withey, Ph.D., will return to India in October for six months on his second Fulbright Scholarship since 2014.
The trip is a continuation of his long-standing studies of Vibrio cholerae, the causative agent of cholera, with investigators at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in Kolkata.
Dr. Withey, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology, travels to India for collaborative research about once a year.
The Withey lab is interested in enteric pathogens, how they cause diseases in humans, and their aquatic environmental reservoirs, with a primary focus on Vibrio cholerae, which causes cholera. His lab previously developed a zebrafish model for cholera. With collaborators, he previously developed models for Salmonella and Shigella as well. The zebrafish is a small fish native to the Himalayan region of India his lab uses to study the spread of cholera and characterize signals that induce the disease in humans.
According to the World Health Organization, researchers have estimated that every year there are up to 4 million cases of cholera, and up to 143,000 deaths worldwide due to the infection. It is caused by the ingestion of V. cholerae, usually through drinking untreated water, and can kill within hours if left untreated.
For the Fulbright project, “Development of new environmental host models for Enteropathogenic E. coli and Campylobacter,” Dr. Withey plans to develop new models in fish for ETEC and Campylobacter, which are major human pathogens around the world and especially in developing countries.
“The environmental life cycles of these pathogens are poorly understood and the new models will enable us to better understand how they survive in the environment,” Dr. Withey said. “Our findings could potentially lead to remediation approaches. We will also survey wild fish for the presence of major human diarrheal pathogens as part of their intestinal microbiota.”
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Fulbright scholars play critical roles in U.S. public diplomacy, establishing long-term relationships between people and nations. Alumni include 62 Nobel laureates, 89 Pulitzer Prize winners, 78 MacArthur fellows, and leaders and world-renowned experts in academia and many other fields across the private, public and non-profit sectors.
Dr. Withey was named a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar in 2014-2015 and spent five months conducting research at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in Kolkata. In 2020 he was named a Fulbright Scholar Alumni Ambassador, serving a two-year term to advocate for Fulbright programs across the U.S.
“I’m so thrilled, grateful and excited. I love India and am so happy I will get to spend another six months there experiencing the rich culture, fantastic people and interacting with great scientists on a very interesting project,” he said.