Translational research on human microbial infections and its consequences – Anders Sönnerborg's group

We conduct translational research with focus on pathogenesis, treatment and control of virus and bacterial infections as well as the clinical consequences. Our research group includes experimental and clinical researchers, involved in four research teams. The researchers integrate experimental, translational, and clinical research with the aim to rapidly translate our research findings to the benefit of human health.

Our research

We conduct translational research with focus on pathogenesis, treatment and control of virus and bacterial infections as well as the clinical consequences. Our research group includes experimental and clinical researchers, involved in four research teams. The researchers integrate experimental, translational, and clinical research with the aim to rapidly translate our research findings to the benefit of human health.

Research teams

Team Viral immunopathogenesis/ Antiviral Therapy

The team performs experimental research on the immunological mechanisms by which cytotoxic lymphocytes combat HIV-1 to find ways to exploit or boost these mechanisms for an improved HIV-1 control. Mechanisms for latency/persistence of HIV-1 and HBV, respectively, are studied and approaches to find a functional cure are evaluated in vitro, ex vivo and in pilot studies. Also, the mechanisms and efficacy of established and novel direct acting anti-retroviral compounds against different HIV-1 subtypes, with or without multi-resistance, are evaluated in vitro and in vivo, both as therapeutics and prophylaxis. The clinical data and biological samples are analysed through integrated system biology to further emphasize our personalized approach to HIV care.

Team leader

Robert received his Ph.D. in 2012 at the Department of Pathology, University Medical Center Utrecht, on how cytotoxic lymphocytes can control cytomegalovirus. He joined us as postdoctoral researcher in February 2017, assistant professor in 2018, and became research specialist in 2022. His focus is on the immunological mechanisms by which cytotoxic lymphocytes can control HIV-1 and to find ways to exploit or boost these mechanisms for an improved HIV-1 control. Currently, he is investigating how NK cells could be utilized in a shock-and-kill strategy within the HIV-1 cure context.

Team members

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Rafael Ceña Diez

Research Specialist

Rafael received his Ph.D. in 2018 at the Hospital General Gregorio Marañon, Madrid on the use of nanotechnology for prophylaxis against viral sexual transmitted diseases. In 2019, he joined us as postdoctoral researcher. His expertise is in virology, molecular biology, and antiviral therapy/prophylaxis. His current research is discovery of and studies on the mechanisms of new antiviral agents, including HIV multidrug resistance, as well as microbiocides.

Maarten received his Ph.D. in 2016 at the University of Amsterdam and worked as a post-doc in the Institute of Virology at the Technical University Munich, mainly on the molecular virology of hepatitis B virus, unravelling the function of the enigmatic X gene. Maarten joined us in 2021 as post-doc researcher and is now doing fundamental experimental research to unravel the molecular basis of HIV and HBV latency, in addition to research on molecular HIV epidemiology. He functions as a member of the steering committee of the KI liver academy. 

Federica Giammarino

Postdoctoral Researcher

Federica received her Ph.D. in 2023 at the Department of Medical Biotechnology, University of Siena, Italy, on the in vitro characterization of novel antivirals for the treatment of multidrug resistant HIV-1, flaviviruses and coronaviruses. She joined us as postdoctoral researcher in October 2023. Her research focuses on the in vitro and ex vivo evaluation of compounds for the regulation of HIV latency/replication and on the role of mucin gels in combination with antivirals as prophylaxis against sexually transmitted infections.

Zamaneh Hajikhezri

Postdoctoral Researcher

Zamaneh received her Ph.D. from Teheran University of Medical Sciences in 2021. Her Ph.D. research was on designing, producing, and evaluating recombinant proteins from Hepatitis C in Balb/c mice. Afterward, she joined Uppsala University as a postdoctoral researcher, where she focused on studying RNA-binding proteins involved in regulating HAdV-5 infection. In 2023, Zamaneh became a part of our team, where she will be investigating how NK cells can be used in a strategy known as the 'shock-and-kill’.

Team Viral epidemiology and Molecular phylogenetics

The team performs research on large national (InfCareHIV) and international (e.g., EuResist, EuCare) databases with focus on describing the global appearance and spread of established and new HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 strains as well as the epidemiological/clinical impact of these viral variants. Also, the databases are used to develop new bioinformatic tools to assess the time of infection and the undiagnosed population with HIV-1 infection.

Using phylogeny and advanced data analysis, we study patterns in which viruses are transmitted, and monitor the spread of HIV variants and HIV drug resistance. Much of our work is based on the Swedish InfCareHIV database and the EuResist database.

Team leader

Team members

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Johanna Brännström

Affiliated to Research

Johanna received her Ph.D. in 2016. She is senior consultant at the Clinic of Infectious diseases, South Hospital, Stockholm. Her focuses are Continuum of Care (CoC), the undiagnosed population and late diagnosis of HIV-1. She is involved in EuroSIDA, is a member of the steering committee of EuroTEST and of InfCareHIV.

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Pontus Hedberg

Postdoctoral Researcher

Pontus received his Ph.D. in 2022, entitled “Clinical presentation and outcomes of COVID-19 compared with other respiratory virus infections and hospital populations”. He is now postdoctoral researcher on a wide array of COVID-19 related epidemiological research in electronic healthcare records and registers, in particular the association between SARS-CoV-2 variants and the risk of acute and long-term morbidity and mortality. He is involved in the EuCare project on covid-19.

Team HIV comorbidity

The team is focused on clinical epidemiological register-based studies. Through linking InfCareHIV with other nationwide demographic and health registers this team collects big population-based data on an individual level to study time-trends, mortality rates and risk factors of comorbidity in people living with and without HIV-1.

Team leader

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Christina Carlander

Affiliated to Research

Christina received her Ph.D. in 2018. She is senior consultant of Infectious Diseases at Karolinska University Hospital, subspecialized in HIV care. Since 2021 she is the Director of The National Quality Register of HIV (InfCareHIV). She is involved in three international multi-cohort studies; CASCADE, Respond, and EuroSIDA.

Christina collaborates with among others the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the Department of Laboratory Medicine, and the Department of Medicine Solna at Karolinska Institutet.

Team members

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Veronica Svedhem-Johansson

Affiliated To Research;Affiliated to Research

Veronica received her Ph.D. in 2006. She is associate professor and her research has focus on analysing data from the InfCareHIV database. These cohort studies evaluate outcome of new treatments, long-term side effects, non-HIV related morbidity, stigma and life quality over time. 

Isabela is a medical student graduating from the medical program in 2023. She is enrolled as PhD student since 2022. Isabelas register-based Ph.D. project focuses on the incidence, severity, mortality, and secondary effects of COVID-19 in Sweden by HIV-status.

Stina Malmström

Affiliated to Research

Stina is a resident at the Department of Infectious Diseases in Region Västmanland and affiliated to our research group. Stina is involved in a register-based research project studying the incidence, risk, and survival of lymphoma-diagnosis in people with and without HIV. Stina is planned to be registered as a Ph.D.-student in 2023.

Stina is a resident at the Department of Infectious Diseases in Region Västmanland and affiliated to our research group. Stina is involved in a register-based research project studying the incidence, risk, and survival of lymphoma-diagnosis in people with and without HIV. Stina is planned to be registered as a Ph.D.-student in 2023.

Josefin Nilsson

Affiliated To Research;Phd Student;Affiliated to Research

Josefin is currently doing her Master of Public Health Epidemiology at New York University, USA. Her master project focuses on non-immune-responders (incidence and risk factors) using data from InfCareHIV.

Team Microbiome/ Bacterial infections

The team focuses on the impact of the human microbiome (particularly gut and lung microbiome) on the pathogenesis of viral infections, mainly HIV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. The microbiome analyses performed consider the specific differences between the various microorganism communities such as bacteriome (bacterial community), virome (viral community), and mycobiome (fungal community) and their clinical associations to infectious diseases. This team efforts and findings are aimed at developing novel therapeutic approaches against bacterial species, especially multi-drug resistant variants, through the study of the interactions of antivirals and microbiota, for example repurposing antivirals as bactericidals.

Team leader

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Shilpa Ray

Research Specialist

Shilpa received her Ph.D. in 2018 from KIIT University, India, on the identification of serovar specific virulence factors contributing to the pathogenesis of Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Enteritidis. She joined us as a postdoctoral researcher in 2019. Her research is directed to understand the mechanisms of the interactions between antiretroviral drugs and the microbiome in HIV-infected patients, in integrating systems biology approach with in vitro work. Also, her research is directed towards improving treatment of bacterial infections and preventing antibacterial resistance by development of new antibacterial agents or repurposing drugs.

Team members

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Xiangning Bai

Affiliated to Research

Dr Bai receive her Ph.D. in 2016. She is a bacteriologist whose main research focuses are i) diagnostics, characterization and pathogenic mechanisms of enteric bacterial pathogens, especially pathogenic Escherichia coli; ii) human gut and respiratory microbiome in correlation to infectious diseases, including HIV and COVID-19; iii) identification and characterization of novel microbial species and emerging pathogens. A novel bacterial species Mycolicibacterium baixiangningiae is named after Dr. Bai. She joined us as a postdoctoral researcher in 2019 when she focused on microbiome in infectious diseases and is now guest researcher since 2021 on microbiome in infectious diseases, while being employed as a research scientist by Oslo University Hospital, Norway.

Aswathy is a doctoral student since 2022, with Dr Piotr Nowak as Main supervisor. She holds a master’s degree in systems biology from 2019. Her previous role as a research assistant entailed establishing bioinformatics pipelines for shotgun metagenomic sequencing analysis. Current doctoral projects focus on exploring the role of microbiome and inflammation in different stages of HIV-1 infection and to perform multi-omics data analysis of such samples. The aim is to obtain a complete picture of microbial communities and its association with antiretroviral drugs, which will help us to understand their significance and potential clinical applications. 

Itziar received her Ph.D. in 2019 from the University of Cantabria, Spain, on the characterization of the survival ability and antimicrobial resistance in clinical isolates of Acinetobacter baumannii and A. pittii. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the National Laboratory at The University of Texas Medical Branch, United States, deciphering the role of the toxin-antitoxin systems on the persistence and virulence of the Tier 1 pathogen Burkholderia pseudomallei. She joined us as a postdoctoral researcher in 2023.

Funding

  • Swedish Research Council
  • H2020 EU
  • Stockholm County Council ALF-funding
  • CIMED
  • Swedish Physicians Against AIDS Foundation,
  • Julins Foundation
  • Åke Wibergs Foundation

Members and contact

Group leader

All members of the group

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Emmi Andersson

Affiliated to Research
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Xiangning Bai

Affiliated to Research
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Johanna Brännström

Affiliated to Research
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Christina Carlander

Affiliated to Research

Stina Malmström

Affiliated to Research