His research focuses on survival mechanisms of tuberculosis bacilli. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis, is estimated to infect over a quarter of the human population and is the greatest cause of mortality by a single microbe. A critical determinant of the challenge posed by M. tuberculosis is persistence, the ability of a small fraction of a bacterial population to survive antibiotic treatment despite lacking alleles that code for genotypic drug resistance. These surviving cells are the substrate for the emergence of drug resistant strains. The phenomenon of persistence is the basis of the requirement for lengthy multidrug treatment regimens to cure tuberculosis and may contribute to the ability of the bacteria to establish a latent infection. Dr. Weinrick has characterized the unique physiological state of the persister cells in a search for their vulnerabilities.
Dr. Weinrick has substantial experience in evaluating the genetic requirements for and regulation of virulence in bacterial pathogens, including animal models of infection for gram-negative, gram-positive, and mycobacteria, and has employed new approaches to the systems level characterization of microbial pathogens, combining genomic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic tools. His efforts to alleviate the burden of tuberculosis are not limited to basic research and include coordinating a project to establish a national tuberculosis reference laboratory for the state of Eritrea.