Katrine Whiteson Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Katrine Whiteson is an Assistant Professor at UC Irvine, and Associate Director of the recently launched UCI Microbiome Initiative. She studied Biochemistry at UC Berkeley (BA, 2000) and University of Chicago (PhD, 2007). Dr. Whiteson and her lab are interested in understanding how individual and persistent human-associated microbial and viral communities affect health. The Whiteson lab uses culture-independent metagenomics, metabolomics, and ecological statistics along with hypothesis driven, reductionist microbiology to answer questions about how bacteria and viruses affect human health. After working as a lecturer at UC Irvine for a year in 2007-2008, she moved to Geneva, Switzerland, and joined the Genomic Research Lab at the University of Geneva Hospitals with Dr. Jacques Schrenzel and Dr. Patrice Francois. This was an exciting era, just at the start of the Human Microbiome Project, for asking basic unanswered questions about the microbes and viruses inhabiting various niches of the human body. Dr. Whiteson focused on the oral microbial communities of healthy Europeans, and malnourished kids in Niger who develop a devastating facial gangrene known as noma. Her first CF-focused research experience started in 2011 when she moved to Prof. Forest Rohwer's lab at San Diego State, where she undertook breath and sputum metabolite analysis to better understand the activity of CF patient microbial communities from Dr. Doug Conrad's Adult CF clinic at UCSD. Combining information about the genetic potential of a microbial community through DNA sequencing with the activity of the community by metabolite profiling is a powerful approach that she is pursuing in her new lab at UC Irvine. Although clinicians are increasingly aware of the polymicrobial nature of CF infections, clinical practice still focuses primarily on individual pathogens. Fermentation products from microbes that are typically discarded by clinical microbiology staff as 'normal flora' are part of oral microbial communities and toxic to human cells. They may also influence growth and antibiotic resistance of opportunistic pathogens. Larger sampling campaigns in collaboration with Prof. John LiPuma and CFF will shed light on whether microbial fermentation products are a consistent signature of exacerbation. More information can be found here: http://faculty.sites.uci.edu/whitesonlab/