Milena Kordalewska, Ph.D.
Milena Kordalewska, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Member at the Center for Discovery and Innovation.
Dr. Kordalewska has a broad background in biotechnology and medical mycology with specific training and expertise in antifungal susceptibility testing, molecular diagnostic assay development, and discovery of molecular resistance determinants. Dr. Kordalewska’s research goal is to understand why and how certain microorganisms emerge to cause outbreaks and to develop tools to help quickly identify and fight them. Her research program is built on studies of Candida auris, which has recently emerged and rapidly expanded as a nosocomial pathogen.
Discovery of drug resistance mechanisms in Candida spp.
In addition to increasing incidence rates of Candida spp. infections, a trend of increasing cases of infection with non-albicans Candida species has been observed. Strikingly, non-albicans Candida species have been associated with higher mortality and propensity to cause outbreaks, and greater antifungal drug resistance than those seen with C. albicans. Recent worldwide emergence of drug-resistant C. auris heightened public health relevance of studies on mechanisms of antifungal drug resistance in order to develop diagnostic tools and effective therapies. In her research, Dr. Kordalewska has been dissecting antifungal drug resistance mechanisms in Candida spp. by conducting comprehensive analysis of correlations between gene mutation and expression, enzyme kinetic inhibition, minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) values, pharmacodynamics and clinical outcomes.
Molecular diagnostics platforms for detection/identification of fungi and drug resistance markers
Precise and timely identification of fungal isolates to the species level is extremely important, especially when recovered from high-risk patients, as fungal infections in these patients can be serious, difficult to treat and rapidly fatal. However, traditional diagnostic procedures are often tedious and time consuming, delaying implementation of adequate therapy. Nucleic acid amplification-based methods enable shortening of the time required for analysis to be completed and are almost entirely independent from the diagnostician’s experience. Moreover, molecular resistance determinants detection assays can be applied for high-throughput screening and provide information on isolates susceptibility much quicker than standard methods (especially when performed with DNA isolated directly from clinical specimens). Dr. Kordalewska has developed novel molecular platforms for fast, robust, easy to perform and interpret detection/identification of fungal (yeast and mold) pathogens. She created the first molecular test for rapid and accurate detection and identification of C. auris, which was later validated on a panel of clinical skin swabs and implemented at the CDC.