Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences
Dr. Boehm and his students study how bacteria, like Escherichia coli, cause disease by killing white blood cells (the neutrophil).
- Biology of Sexually Transmitted Diseases
- Basic Microbiology
- General Microbiology
Dr. Boehm's primary research interest lies in the bacterial pathogenesis or how bacteria cause disease. He studies how the bacterium Escherichia coli can cause urinary tract disease. Strains of these bacteria, which are pathogenic, produce a toxic protein, E coli hemolysin, which kills cells of human bodies. His research interest deals with how this protein kills our cells. He and his students have found that the hemolysin kills red blood cells and white blood cells. It prevents the white blood cells from phagocytizing (killing) the bacteria and thereby leads to bacterial infection. Scanning electron microscopy has demonstrated the destruction caused by this toxin. He and his students have demonstrated that the toxin activity of the hemolysin is calcium-dependent. They are currently attempting to see if they can localize the toxin in the membranes of the white blood cells exposed to the toxin. In addition, they study the beta-toxin of Staphylococcus aureus, which is also a hemolysin. This hemolysin is unique in that it requires magnesium in order to cause destruction of red blood cells and also requires a warm incubation of the toxin with the blood cells, followed by placing the cells at a cold temperature for the red blood cells to lyse. They are looking at what effect the beta toxin has on neutrophils.
Other research interests include prevention of hospital-acquired infections and occupational safety of health care workers. Students have shown that improper handling and opening of the anesthesia compound propofol can lead to contamination of the drug with bacteria. These bacteria can then increase in number in the compound if it is not used in a short period of time. In addition, they have studied the effectiveness of surgical masks in protecting health care workers from air-borne pathogens.
Currently, he has students working on factors that enhance the development of microbial colonies on various surfaces. These microbial colonies are called biofilms, and they can result in heavy growth of bacterial communities on implanted devices in human bodies, on the surface of teeth and on the surface of submerged objects (fouling).
- B.S.: Biology, West Liberty State College
- M.S.: Microbiology, West Virginia University School of Medicine
- Ph.D.: Microbiology and Immunology, West Virginia University School of Medicine
Office: Frich Hall Room 106