Duke University Medical Center
Faculty and Research

Heitman Lab Members

Edmond Byrnes, PhD
AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow
Office of Strategic Coordination/DPCPSI
Office of the Director
National Institutes of Health
Building 1, Room 252
Bethesda, MD 20892

Phone: 301.451.6869
Email: edmond.byrnes@nih.gov

Web: http://commonfund.nih.gov/

Edmond Byrnes

I received my B.S. degree in Microbiology from the University of Maryland College Park in 2006 (Go Terps!). As an undergraduate I worked at the USDA Beltsville Area Research Center, where I used molecular genetic approaches to study bloodfeeding patterns of the mosquito species Culex pipiens. In the fall of 2006, I began my graduate career at Duke University in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. After rotations in several departmental labs, I joined the laboratory of Joseph Heitman in June 2007 due to my interest in the fungal pathogenesis of Cryptococcus. In the summer of 2008, I was then given the opportunity of taking and completing the Molecular Mycology: Current Approaches to Fungal Pathogenesis course at Woods Hole, MA. Since joining the lab, I have primarily been investigating the emerging fungal pathogen Cryptococcus gattii. Unlike C. neoformans, C. gattii mostly infects otherwise healthy individuals and animals. Cases in the Pacific Northwest have been on the rise since 1999, and my focus is primarily related to cases of C. gattii occurring in the United States.

In the Heitman lab, I researched population structures, molecular epidemiology, and virulence variations in the emerging fungal pathogen Cryptococcus gattii. My major areas of focus were in the VGI molecular type with a particular emphasis on the analysis of a specific genotype seen in Australia and the United States, the expansion of the 1999 VGII molecular type outbreak from Vancouver Island into the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, and on a VGIII molecular type outbreak occurring in HIV patients from Southern California. Research on the VGI group was initiated through the analysis of the first reported clinical case of C. gattii in North Carolina, which showed a unique genotype specific to a clinical case in California and a clinical case as well as several environmental isolates from Australia. Through collaborations with Dr. Dee Carter from the University of Sydney, we developed new molecular markers based on microsatellites combined with conserved genomic regions to address possible differences within this specific genotype. Studies on the VGII group are specifically focused on the molecular epidemiology and virulence analyses of recent clinical and veterinary cases in the United States Pacific Northwest, with a focus on the Oregon and Washington populations. The work in the Pacific NW has been facilitated by clinical collaborations with Dr. Kieren Marr of Johns Hopkins University, and veterinary collaborations with Dr. Robert Bildfell, chief pathologist at the Oregon State University veterinary diagnostic laboratory. The VGIII outbreak project is focused on virulence of unique VGIII genotypes, population genetics, and roles of mating and fertility. This is part of an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Vishnu Chaturvedi, associate professor at the Wadsworth Center.  

I am currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.


Lee S, Corradi N, Byrnes EJ 3rd, Torres-Martinez S, Dietrich FS, Keeling PJ and Heitman J. Microsporidia evolved from ancestral sexual fungi. Current Biology November 2008; 18:1675-1679.

Byrnes EJ 3rd, Bildfell RJ, Dearing PL, Valentine BA and Heitman J. Cryptococcus gattii with bimorphic colony types in a dog in Western Oregon: additional evidence for expansion of the Vancouver Island outbreak. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation, January 2009; 21:133-136.

Byrnes EJ 3rd, Bildfell RJ, Frank SA, Mitchell TG, Marr KA and Heitman J. Molecular evidence that the Vancouver Island Cryptococcus gattii outbreak has expanded into the United States Pacific Northwest. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, April 2009; 199:1081-1086.

Byrnes EJ 3rd, Li W, Lewit Y, Perfect JR, Carter DA, Cox GM, and Heitman J. First Reported Case of Cryptococcus gattii in the Southeastern USA: Implications for Travel-Associated Acquisition of an Emerging Pathogen. PLoS ONE, June 2009; 6:e5851.

Datta K, Bartlett K, Baer R, Byrnes EJ 3rd, Galanis E, Heitman J, Hoang L, Leslie M, MacDougall L, Magill S, Morshed M and Marr K. Cryptococcus gattii: an Emerging Pathogenic Fungus in the Pacific Northwest. Emerging Infectious Diseases, August 2009; 15:1185-1191.

Byrnes EJ 3rd and Heitman J. Cryptococcus gattii outbreak expands into the Northwestern United States with fatal consequences. F1000 Biology Reports, In Press.


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