Dr. Joel Ernst: Infectious Diseases Grand Rounds

Dr Joel Ernst, PhD, researches the mechanistic basis for development of effective vaccines against tuberculosis.

Even though TB can be treated and potentially cured, it still causes more human mortality than any other infectious disease, including HIV.  His research informs development of effective TB vaccines, characterizing mechanisms of immune evasion employed by M. tuberculosis to prevent immune responses from clearing the infection and establishing sterile immunity and memory. 

His studies of immunity to TB in humans began with the discovery that nearly all of the  M. tuberculosis epitopes recognized by human T cells are highly conserved, indicating that human T cell recognition of those epitopes does not exert evolutionary pressure to select escape mutants. Following this, he combined comparative bacterial genomics and experimental immunology to discover novel M. tuberculosis antigens that do show evidence of diversifying selection, suggesting that human T cell recognition of those antigens is more detrimental to the bacteria than is T cell recognition of the conserved antigens.  This has led us to test the general hypothesis that human T cells specific for different antigens exhibit distinct patterns of differentiation, trafficking, and functions, and that some of these provide superior protection against TB compared with others.

His studies of human immunity to TB are currently based on a cohort in Ethiopia, collaborating closely with investigators at the Armauer Hansen Research Institute to identify antigen-specific T cell signatures that are associated with differential outcomes of M. tuberculosis infection (long-term control vs. progression to active TB disease) that can be targeted by vaccine strategies to reduce the global burden of TB.

The UCSF Infectious Disease (ID) division is based at three sites: the UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus, the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG), and the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center (SFVAMC). Our division includes 40 full-time faculty, 17 trainees, and 65 administrative and research staff at these three different UCSF teaching hospitals.

The Division is dedicated to the highest standards of clinical care and teaching, as well as, research leading to new approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious disease. Our mission is to maintain the high standard of excellence associated with UCSF by delivering outstanding patient care, developing cutting edge research, and training future leaders in Infectious Disease through our ACGME-certified ID fellowship training program.

Dial-In Information

For Zoom link, please contact Marie Hollero at Marie.Hollero@ucsf.edu

Monday, March 8 at 8:30am to 9:30am

Virtual Event
Event Type

Research & Academia


School of Medicine


Students, Postdocs, Faculty





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