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About Valerie Carabetta

Dr. Carabetta earned her Ph.D. from Princeton University in Molecular Biology, and completed her post-doctoral research at the Public Health Research Institute, New Jersey Medical School (Rutgers University). She educates medical students at CMSRU in microbiology and infectious disease, co-directs the Infectious Diseases block and also facilitates an active learning group.

The overarching theme of the Carabetta lab is combatting antimicrobial resistance in bacteria, either by performing the basic research needed to design novel therapeutics, designing new strategies to combat infections or studying the mechanisms of resistance. My current work interfaces my experience and knowledge with molecular genetics, microbiology, biochemistry, proteomics and mass spectrometry to tackle difficult biological questions. Currently, there are three active areas of ongoing research in my lab.

Project 1: Understanding the physiological consequences of protein acetylation in bacteria, and the underlying mechanisms that control it. Recently, Ne-lysine acetylation was realized to be a prevalent bacterial post-translational modification (PTM), contrary to the historical notion that this was a rare occurrence. Currently, our focus is on understanding the biological consequences of the acetylation of a histone-like protein (HBsu) in Bacillus subtilis. In addition, we are characterizing novel enzymes involved in the control of acetylation. This area of research, in my opinion, represents a world of untapped potential that may uncover new drug targets to replace or supplement our antiquated antibiotic arsenal. With proper study, the enzymes involved in regulation (i.e. acetylases and deacetylases) or the acetylated form of a key protein (i.e. virulence factors, essential genes, etc.) may provide valuable, druggable targets.  We collaborate with Dr. Ileana Cristea, at Princeton University for this project. This work is funded by an R35 MIRA grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS).

Project 2: In collaboration with Cooper Hospital physicians (Dr. Henry Fraimow and Dr. Raquel Nahra), we are studying the pathogenic bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii, which is a particularly difficult infection to treat to due the emergence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains. We have characterized the antibiotic susceptibility of 20 clinical isolates of A. baumannii to 18 standard-of-care drugs, and have determined susceptibilities to new drugs. In addition, we have characterized novel combinations and identified synergistic interactions among drugs, which could represent novel therapeutic strategies. We also have determined effectiveness of common hospital disinfectants and skin antiseptics for removing these bacteria from hospital surfaces and hands of healthcare workers. We plan on studying the evolution of Acinetobacter species when exposed to manmade environmental insults (i.e. chlorine in drinking water, bleach) or pollution (i.e. heavy metals in soil). All of our work will ultimately help develop new treatment and disinfection strategies for physicians to battle this difficult-to-treat infection.

Project 3: Prosthetics and indwelling medical devices are used to replace or repair damaged tissues, and their use has improved the lives of many patients. However, implanting a foreign material into the body increases the risk for microbial colonization. Staphylococcus aureus accounts for nearly two-thirds of infections of indwelling medical devices and many infections lead to device failure and increased mortality. Moreover, these bacteria assemble into biofilms, which are multicellular communities that protect bacteria, resulting in increased tolerance to antibiotics, making infections difficult to treat. With a rise in infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria, such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), there is a need for better strategies to treat such infections. In collaboration with Dr. Sebastian Vega, (Biomedical Engineering, Rowan University), we are developing a novel hydrogel coating with tethered antimicrobial peptides (AMP) to develop a medical device coating that can prevent biofilm-based infections. Currently, we are testing the effectiveness of three AMPs with anti-biofilm activity on preventing S. aureus (including MRSA strains) growth and biofilm formation.

If interested in joining my group, please feel free to reach out to me (!


Present Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Rowan University Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

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Research Works (18)