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About me

I have studied Biological Sciences, bachelor and master, at the University of Pavia in Italy. After my undergraduate studies, I moved to the University Medical Center of Groningen, The Netherlands, to perform my PhD in Medical Microbiology under the supervision of Prof. Jan Maarten van Dijl and Prof. Grietje Molema studying how Streptococcus pneumoniae interact with endothelial cells causing invasive pneumococcal disease, in particular meningitis. During my PhD in 2010 I have been visiting PhD student in the lab of Prof. Carlos Orihuela in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, USA. 

After my PhD graduation in November 2013, I immediately started my postdoc in December 2013 at the Karolinska Institutet in the laboratory of Prof. Birgitta Henriques-Normark where I continued my studies on pneumococcal meningitis. My postdoc studies have been published in leading international journals like The Journal of Clinical Investigation, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, The Journal of Infectious Diseases and Trends in Microbiology.

I am currently Assistant Professor at the Karolinska Institutet. My team conducts research focused on studying how bacterial pathogens after translocation across the blood-brain barrier interact with the different cell types of the brain, in particular astrocytes, pericytes, neurons and microglia.


The Bacterial Meningitis Research Team

Federico Iovino, Assistant Professor

Sigrún Thórsdóttir, PhD student  

Tabusi Mahebali, Research Assistant, Undergraduate student (Biomedicine Master Programme)

Mariana Oliveira, Undergraduate student (Biomedicine Bachelor Programme)


IVIS-SpectrumCT In Vivo Imaging Core Laboratory

I am also the manager of the new IVIS-SpectrumCT In Vivo Imaging Core Laboratory in the BSL2 area of KMB Animal Facility. For more information please visit the website below:


2013-2018 Postdoc, group of Prof. Birgitta Henriques-Normark (MTC Department, Karolinska Institutet)

2013  PhD degree Medical Microbiology (University of Groningen, Netherlands).

2008  Master degree Experimental and Applied Biology, Class of Human Biology and Biomedical Sciences (University of Pavia, Italy).

2006  Bachelor degree Biological Sciences, Class of Human Biology and Biomedical Sciences (University of Pavia, Italy).

Research description

Biology of Streptococcus pneumoniae as cause of bacterial meningitis

Identification and characterization of the virulence factors that enable the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and cause meningitis.


The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2016 

The Journal of Experimental Medicine, 2017

Development of new meningitis therapies to protect the brain towards bacterial invasion

Development of new therapeutic strategies to block the interaction of Streptococcus pneumoniae with the blood-brain barrier preventing the occurrence of meningitis in hosts without underlying diseases and in immunocompromised hosts (brain cancer models).


The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2018

The interplay between pneumococci and microglia, the primary immune cells of the brain

Study the biology of how microglia sense bacterial pathogens and initiate phagocytosis and/or neuroinflammatory process during meningitis pathogenesis; Study how pneumococci in the brain can survive and grow within microglia.


Frontiers in Microbiology, 2019

Neurological sequelae caused by meningitis: Interaction between pneumococci and neurons

Neurons are the main cell component of the brain, and mediate many functions controlled by the brain. Neurological sequelae caused by bacterial infection of the brain occur in 50-70% of meningitis survivors and are often related to neuronal damage. Our goal is to study how pneumococci can interact with neurons, invade and kill neuronal cells.

Role of astrocytes and pericytes in the passage of bacteria from the blood-brain barrier endothelium to the brain tissue

Astrocytes and pericytes are in close contact with the BBB endothelium. Our preliminary data show that bacteria exiting from the blood vessels are in close contact with astrocytes and pericytes, suggesting that these two cell types can function as a bridge for the bacteria to reach the brain tissue.

Nanotechnology to study host-pathogen interaction

Study of how flame-derived nanoparticles can be used as fluorescent dye to study bacterial interaction with the host using live-cell imaging (Collaboration with Dr. Georgios Sotiriou, MTC Department, Karolinska Institutet).

Teaching portfolio

Biomedicine Bachelor Programme

Coordinator Lecturer and Teacher of the Bacteriology and Bacteriology Lab Courses (Infection and Immunity).

Medical School

Teacher of Medical Microbiology.


Academic honours, awards and prizes

Research Grants

2019  Petrus and Augusta Hedlund Foundation Grant for Medical Research

2018  Petrus and Augusta Hedlund Foundation Grant for Medical Research

           Jeansson Foundation Grant for Medical Research

           Åke Wiberg Foundation Grant in Medicine

           HKK Kronprinsessan Lovisa Association for Child Care

           Stiftelsen Längmanska Kulturfonden Grant in Medicine

           Karolinska Institutet Research Foundation Grant (Pediatrics)

           Karolinska Institutet Research Foundation Grant (Medical Research)

           Fredrik and Ingrid Thuring Foundation

2017  Jeansson Foundation Grant for Medical Research

          Åke Wiberg Foundation Grant in Medicine

2016  Karolinska Institutet for Doctoral Education (KID) Grant


Academic distinctions

2014  SpotLight of Infection & Immunity (peer-review international journal)

The manuscript “F. Iovino et al., Infection & Immunity. 82: 3555-66 (2014)” selected by the editorial board as article of significant interest.


Journal Reviewer

The International Journal of Medical Microbiology; Microbiology (Microbiology Society); Microbial Pathogenesis; Pathogens and Disease (FEMS); Virulence; Cell Systems; Journal of Neuroinflammation; Brain Research; Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology; Infection and Drug Resistance; PLOS ONE.



Invited editor of the book on the subject Streptococcus pneumoniae, new volume for lab protocol based book series Methods in Molecular Biology, published by Springer Nature.

Published book chapters (available on Pubmed):




High-Resolution and Super-Resolution Immunofluorescent Microscopy Ex Vivo to Study Pneumococcal Interactions with the Host
Iovino F, Henriques-normark B
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 2019;1968():53-59

Immunofluorescent Staining and High-Resolution Microscopy to Study the Pneumococcal Cell
Iovino F, Henriques-normark B
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 2019;1968():35-39

In Vivo Mouse Models to Study Pneumococcal Host Interaction and Invasive Pneumococcal Disease
Iovino F, Sender V, Henriques-normark B
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 2019;1968():173-181

IVIS Spectrum CT to Image the Progression of Pneumococcal Infections In Vivo
Sierakowiak A, Henriques-normark B, Iovino F
Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) 2019;1968():195-202

Luminescent CeO2:Eu3+ nanocrystals for robust in situ H2O2 real-time detection in bacterial cell cultures
Henning Df, Merkl P, Yun C, Iovino F, Xie L, Mouzourakis E, et al
Biosensors & bioelectronics 2019;132():286-293

The Role of Microglia in Bacterial Meningitis: Inflammatory Response, Experimental Models and New Neuroprotective Therapeutic Strategies
Thorsdottir S, Henriques-normark B, Iovino F
Frontiers in microbiology 2019;10():576-

Immunomodulatory Effects of Pneumococcal Extracellular Vesicles on Cellular and Humoral Host Defenses
Codemo M, Muschiol S, Iovino F, Nannapaneni P, Plant L, Wai Sn, et al
mBio 2018;9(2):-

Receptor Blockade: A Novel Approach to Protect the Brain From Pneumococcal Invasion
Iovino F, Thorsdottir S, Henriques-normark B
The Journal of infectious diseases 2018;218(3):476-484

pIgR and PECAM-1 bind to pneumococcal adhesins RrgA and PspC mediating bacterial brain invasion
Iovino F, Engelen-lee Jy, Brouwer M, Van De Beek D, Van Der Ende A, Valls Seron M, et al
The Journal of experimental medicine 2017;214(6):1619-1630

How Does Streptococcus pneumoniae Invade the Brain?
Iovino F, Seinen J, Henriques-normark B, Van Dijl Jm
Trends in microbiology 2016;24(4):307-315

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