GradImpact: Researching the Possible Use of Plague and other Infectious Diseases as Biological Weapons

    It’s been more than 550 years since the Great Plague, also known as the Black Death, resulted in the death of at least 100 million people in Eurasia and reduced the world’s population by roughly 20%. Even with all the biomedical advances and research, fundamental questions about one of the deadliest diseases remain unanswered. As a doctoral candidate at Colorado State University in biology, biosecurity and infectious diseases to be specific, David Markman hopes to provide some insight.


    Markman’s research demonstrates the ability of the bacteria that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, to survive and multiply inside the single-celled amoeba commonly found in soil and water. Under normal circumstances, bacteria eaten by amoebae are destroyed. However, according to Markman, “there’s a growing catalog of bacteria that are found to be resistant to being digested by these amoebae.” The danger is the potential for these pathogens to be used as biological weapons. If Markman’s research proves the possibility, his next step will be research that focuses on how to stop it.


    Markman has received numerous fellowships and scholarships, including from the U.S. Department of Defense. Once he completes his PhD, he hopes to work in bio-defense. “Combining science and business in an ethical and responsible way is something that really appeals to me,” Markman said. To learn more about David’s work visit the Colorado State University website, and read his paper “Yersinia pestis Survival and Replication in Potential Ameba Reservoir” for a deep dive into his research published in the CDC journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases.


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    Photo Credit: Colorado State University



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