Featured Student Research – 2019

Respecting Refugees: How Globalization has Influenced our Obligations

Susan Naseri
Political Science and Human Rights
CLAS ’20

In our connected world, the hardships of asylum seekers and refugees are widely available on social media platforms. In 2011, Middle Eastern and North African civilians broadcasted the violence and oppression they endured at the hands of their government. In 2019, we are witnessing Central Americans leave their homes in unprecedented numbers, only to be subjected to abuse by U.S. government employees. As innocent civilians suffer, it is the responsibility of safer nations to not only provide safety but to effectively integrate the refugee populations into society. Refugees must be given access and opportunity for education, employment, and social mobility while also having the option to maintain parts of their home culture and to develop relationships with the host population. This research discusses the current gaps in current integration policy in the U.S. and in the Middle East, while exploring the ways in which globalization can facilitate an effective integration. In addition, as xenophobia is increasing, this research shares the consequences when refugees are unable to acculturate into their host societies

Alternative methods for treatment of antibiotic resistant Clostridium difficile infections

Jamie Georgelos
Molecular & Cell Biology; Minor: Spanish
CLAS ’19

One such infection is a Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive, spore-forming anaerobe often found in the large intestine of healthy individuals, though C. difficile can infect the intestine when the gut is in a state of dysbiosis, meaning that its healthy microbial composition has been altered, often due to treatment with antibiotics. CDI can lead to pseudomembranous colitis, C. difficile associated diarrhea, and in severe cases, toxic megacolon and death. Not only is CDI of significant concern nationally, but the New England region, including Connecticut, reported the highest rate of hospitalizations associated with C. difficile in 2010 and 2011.

The pathogenesis of CDI is the result of two toxins: toxin A, an enterotoxin, and toxin B, a cytotoxin. C. difficile is resistant to many antibiotics, making it very difficult to treat; treatment options include vancomycin or metronidazole, but symptomatic recurrence occurs in about 20% of patients. Interestingly, attempts to repopulate the large intestine with probiotics rather than rely solely on antibiotics have seen great success. In a study using a combination of a multistrain probiotic and vancomycin, 90% of patients saw complete resolution of clinical CDI symptoms.

Probiotics are a key element in reducing the morbidity and mortality of CDI, but more research is necessary to make them a viable treatment option. Not only are we unsure of which probiotics, and in what concentrations or ratios they are effective, the mechanisms by which they are able to reduce pathogenesis are not yet fully understood for each microbe. This project seeks to identify up to five strain of lactic acid bacteria that are effective in combating Clostridium difficile infection and demonstrate some of the ways by which they are able to do so, primarily by demonstrating ability to reduce growth, virulence, and toxin production of C. difficile, reduce spore germination and outgrowth, and reduce adhesion of C. difficile to intestinal cell walls.