Pete Zimmerman received his PhD from the Case Western Reserve University Department of Biology in 1992. His PhD thesis investigated the association between strains of the parasitic nematode Onchocerca volvulus with blinding or less severe pathogenesis. Dr. Zimmerman received a National Research Council Associateship award to continue his post-doctoral education at the National Institutes of Health with Thomas Nutman in the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases. Dr. Zimmerman's studies on immunological and genetic factors influencing susceptibility to infectious disease at the NIH culminated in identification of human genetic polymorphism conferring resistance to HIV-1 infection and delayed progression to AIDS. Dr. Zimmerman joined the CWRU faculty in 1997.
Research in Dr. Zimmerman's laboratory is focused on understanding the influence of human and parasite genetic polymorphism on infection and pathogenesis of microbial pathogens. This work concentrates on two major intracellular pathogens and their associated diseases, Plasmodium species/malaria, and HIV-1/AIDS and research projects cover a broad range from field-based molecular epidemiological studies to in vitro evaluation of factors responsible for infection. Recent studies have uncovered genetic polymorphism in human receptor molecules that malaria parasites and HIV-1 co-opt to facilitate invasion of human erythrocytes and CD4 cells, respectively. Ongoing studies seek to determine how to interfere with biological mechanisms leading to infection and development of agents to block these processes. Additional studies have developed diagnostic assays that will enable surveillance of the malaria parasite population within individuals and throughout malaria-endemic communities. Understanding the distribution of parasites expressing polymorphic antigen or drug resistance-conferring genes is essential for developing malaria control strategies that may one day reduce the significance of malaria infection in the world.