Gracie Richards

Metagenomic Analysis of the Microbiomes of Fijian Women with Chlamydia trachomatis Infection

Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) is the most common bacterial cause of sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world. The Pacific Islands have some of the highest rates of Ct infections, with Ct often asymptomatic and remaining undetected in the population. My project will study Ct in Fijian women by analyzing the microbiomes of the vaginal and rectal anatomic sites. I will use a metagenomic approach, involving shotgun sequencing and bioinformatics software, to learn about Ct genome variation among these anatomic sites, compare microbial diversity in the presence and absence of Ct, and determine the relationship between microbiome composition and Ct acquisition. By detecting Ct and other STIs in women who have tested Ct negative using conventional diagnostic assays, I will show that metagenomic testing is more sensitive than existing diagnostic tests. I am interested in the following research questions: What is the effect of Ct infection on the microbiome, and how can we use this information to develop better tests for Ct and other STIs?

Message to Sponsor

Thank you so much to the Rose Hill Foundation; without them, my experience this summer with SURF would not have been possible. This experience alleviated my worries about doing an honors thesis, and was great preparation for my future PhD. It also gave me confidence in my ability to present my research to a wide audience. Because of SURF, now I have no doubts about whether I have the ability to become a researcher. I am grateful for the wonderful SURF staff that created a solid support network for all of us.
  • Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hill Foundation
  • Mentor: Deborah Dean