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Breck A. Duerkop, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Immunology & Microbiology

12800 E. 19th Ave., RC1N 9126
Mail Stop 8333, Aurora, CO 80045

Phone: 303-724-8670
​Breck A. Duerkop, Ph.D., earned his doctoral degree in Microbiology from the University of Washington in 2008, under the mentorship of Dr. E. Peter Greenberg. He completed postdoctoral research training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the laboratory of Dr. Lora Hooper.

Dr. Duerkop joined the faculty of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 2016.
​Research in the Duerkop lab focuses on bacteriophages (aka. phages) and interactions with their bacterial hosts. Bacteriophages are the most abundant organisms on the planet, and almost all known bacteria can be infected by one or more phages. Phages make up a large component of mammalian associated microbiomes, yet we have only begun to scratch the surface on understanding how phages contribute to the functionality of these microbial communities and whether they have a role in shaping human health. Phages also hold great promise as next generation antibacterial therapeutics. Therefore, the long term goal of our lab is to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms used by phages to modulate bacterial communities and determine the effects of phages on health and disease.

We use a combination of genetic, biochemical, computational and immunological techniques to probe phage-bacterial interactions. The lab focuses on two major areas of research:

  1. We are studying the molecular mechanisms that phages use to infect bacteria, and the strategies that bacteria employ to subvert infection. We isolate novel phages that target antibiotic resistant bacteria by screening environmental reservoirs, such as wastewater. Specifically, we focus our studies on Enterococcus species including E. faecalis and E. faecium which are Gram positive intestinal pathobionts that can transition from benign commensals to opportunistic pathogens
  2. We are exploring how phage communities or the “virome” is shaped by the mammalian immune system by using a combination of computational and wet lab approaches. We are interested in whether perturbations in phage populations driven by the immune system alter the homeostasis of intestinal bacterial communities contributing to intestinal health.
​Dr. Duerkop has received awards from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH, including a Ruth L. Kirshstein postdoctoral fellowship in 2010 and a K01 Career Development Award in 2014.
Duerkop, B. A., W. Huo, P. Bhardwaj, K. L. Palmer, L. V. Hooper. 2016. Molecular basis for lytic bacteriophage resistance in Enterococci. mBio. 7(4). [PMID: 27578757]

Kleiner, M., L. V. Hooper, B. A. Duerkop. 2015. Evaluation of methods to purify virus-like particles for metagenomic sequencing of intestinal viromes. BMC Genomics. 16(1):7. [PMID: 25608871]

Duerkop, B. A., K. L. Palmer, M. J. Horsburgh. 2014. “Enterococcal bacteriophage and genome defense” in Enterococci: From Highly Evolved Commensals to Leading Causes of Hospital Acquired Infection, M.S. Gilmore ed. [PMID: 24649501]

Duerkop, B. A. and L. V. Hooper. 2013. Resident viruses and their interactions with the immune system. Nat. Immunol. 18;14(7):654-9. [PMID: 23778792]

Duerkop, B. A., C. V. Clements, D. Rollins, J. L. M. Rodrigues, L. V. Hooper. 2012. A composite bacteriophage alters colonization by an intestinal commensal bacterium. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 109: 17621-17626. [PMID: 23045666]

Duerkop, B. A., S. Vaishnava and L. V. Hooper. 2009. Immune responses to the microbiota at the intestinal mucosal surface. Immunity. 31:368-76. [PMID: 19766080]  

Click here for a list of Dr. Duerkop's publications.
​Current Members

Sara McBride

Senior Professional Research Assistant
 With the growing number of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, Sara is eager to combine her past research efforts in immunology and host-microbe interactions to explore phage therapies as an alternative to antibiotics. Enterococcus faecalis is a native intestinal commensal that can transition to an opportunistic pathogen. E. faecalis is a leading cause of hospital acquired multidrug resistant infections, thus as an alternative treatment, Sara is studying the mechanisms by which phages infect E. faecalis. She hopes to find a combination of phages that could be used in therapeutic phage cocktails to combat these resistant bacteria. Sara is also studying the effects of using phage cocktails on host immunological responses.

Phat Luong

Master Student, Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnology​​
 Phat is interested in the mechanisms phages use to infect their bacterial hosts and to understand how bacteria subvert phage infection to develop resistance. He is currently using Enterococcus faecalis as a model bacterium to identify novel phage receptors using a collection of 20 lytic Enterococcal phages isolated from various environmental sources. His goal is to find shared receptors among these phages using bacterial genetic and whole genome sequencing approaches. He hopes that the discovery and characterization of Enterococcal phage receptors will aid in the development of broad specificity phage cocktails used to treat drug resistant Enterococcal infections. Upon completion of his Master’s degree, Phat aspires to attend Medical School.  

Anushila Chatterjee
Postdoctoral Fellow
 Anushila is exploring various aspects of phage-host bacterial interactions. Despite escalating interest in bacteriophage therapy to combat multidrug resistant bacterial infections, insights into the phage infection cycle and its impact on host bacterial physiology are limited. A deeper understanding of bacteria-phage interactions may lead to the identification of host genes that can be targeted for therapeutic intervention as well as phage factors that can be used as antibacterial agents. Therefore, she is exploring phage infection of the pathobiont Enterococcus faecalis using temporal transcriptomics of phage-infected cells. Additionally, she is studying the influence of intestinal environmental pressures, such as inflammation, as drivers of prophage excision from bacterial chromosomes. She aims to determine if the generation of lytic phage particles in the intestine contributes to bacterial dysbiosis.

Former Members
Jason Hickman
  • Visiting Research Scientist (2017)
  • Current position: Senior Scientist, Archer Daniels Midland (AMD), Decatur, IL.