Bacterial pathogenesis, host-pathogen interaction, vaccines, molecular epidemiology, antibodies
Research in the group of van Sorge aims to clarify the molecular pathogenesis of bacterial infections. She specifically focusses on the human pathogens Staphylococcus aureus and Group A Streptococcus (StrepA) to elucidate how cell wall polysaccharides produced by these species impact recognition of by innate receptors and (vaccine-induced) antibodies. Overall, her work spans the entire spectrum from molecule to organism to patients to contribute to new strategies, including vaccines, to prevent and combat infections by these pathogens for which no vaccines are currently available. Her ambition for translational research is illustrated by a patent on GAS vaccine development (WO 2013/020090 A3) on which she is co-inventor. The patent was officially licensed in 2019 and is currently further developed by the pharmaceutical industry with financial support from Carb-X. In addition to her fundamental research activities, she also heads the Netherlands Reference Laboratory for Bacterial Meningitis (NRLBM), which performs the molecular epidemiology for the vaccine-preventable diseases caused by Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae b and Streptococcus pneumoniae as well as Groups A and B streptococci. The NRLBM receives, characterized and stores approximately 3,000 bacterial isolates from blood and cerebrospinal fluid annually, providing a comprehensive collection of clinically-relevant strains that spans several decades. This provides her with a unique position to connect molecular surveillance with fundamental research on invasive bacterial infections.