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Ehsan Khafipour PhD

Currently Not Accepting Students.

Current Position

Assistant Professor in Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, and Department of Animal Science, University of Manitoba; Researcher, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. He is also the Lead Scientist of the “Gut Microbiome and Large Animal Biosecurity Laboratories” at the Department of Animal Science.

Research Focus

Dr. Khafipour’s research focus is on understanding the composition and function of microbiomes in the gastrointestinal and vaginal tracts, their interaction with the environment and their role in human and animal health and diseases. His research offers cutting-edge sequencing technologies, coupled with bioinformatics and advanced statistical and mathematical approaches to examine the microbiome composition and function to relate the variation in this ecosystem to health and disease status, or productivity of the host in various species and environments.

Most of Dr. Khafipour’s projects involve multidisciplinary research teams. Collaborators include microbiologist; animal, soil, food, and plant scientists; human nutritionists; immunologists; medical microbiologists; gastroenterologists; and bio-system engineers. He has an active research program and is currently collaborating with more than thirty teams across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Dr. Khafipour’s affiliation with Children\’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba (CHRIM) started in Jul 2014 as a result of a collaborative research on the “Microbial Etiology of Preterm Birth” with Dr. Shadi Sepehri, Clinical Microbiology, and Dr. Saves Menticoglou, Maternal Fetal Section, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, University of Manitoba.

Preterm birth.Preterm birth (PTB) is defined as birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation. It is the leading cause of neonatal and infant mortality in industrialized countries and accounts for a substantial portion (60%–80%) of all neonatal morbidity. Each year more than 15 million babies (11.1% of live births) are born prematurely worldwide, and of those, more than 1 million die as a result of their prematurity. In the past few decades, the rate of PTB has increased both in developing and developed countries. In Canada, 7.8% of babies are born preterm. This rate is close to 12% in United States. Of these babies, many face a lifetime disability. Therefore, reducing the rate of PTB is an important public health priority in high-income countries, such as Canada and United States.

Etiology of PTB. Very little is known about the causes and mechanisms of PTB. It is a multifactorial process resulting from interplay of factors, such as maternal genetics, infection, medical conditions, infertility treatments, and individual’s lifestyle including stress and excessive physical work, causing the uterus to change from quiescence to active contractions and to birth before term.

Infection and PTB. It is widely believed that intra-amniotic infection and inflammation has a major role in PTB. Studies showed that infections of the lower genital or gastrointestinal tract can directly or indirectly increase the chance of intrauterine infection and PTB. Thus, elicit the question whether or not PTB is an infectious disease. Historically, microbial culture of amniotic fluid (AF) has been recognized as the “gold standard” for the detection of intra-amniotic infection. However, uncultivable or difficult-to-cultivate bacteria will not be identified by culture. As a result, intra-amniotic inflammation is frequently detected in the absence of an infective agent. Thus, specific interventions to prevent infections and mechanisms for early detection and treatment of infections occurring during pregnancy can reduce the rate of PTB.

Although the application of molecular methods to detect and identify uncultivable and difficult-to-cultivate bacteria has been widely tested for several diseases, very few investigations have been performed to characterize the microbial composition of AF in PTB. Using molecular techniques, recent studies have shown that microbial invasion of AF in preterm rupture of membranes (PROM) is more common than previously recognized, and that in two-thirds of cases it is associated with difficult-to-cultivate or uncultivable microorganisms. In particular, cultivation-resistant anaerobes belonging to the family Fusobacteriaceae were commonly found in AF. Despite this, a causal relationship between AF infection and PTB has not established. Also, it is not clear whether or not AF is a sterile environment!

During this research, Drs. Khafipour, Sepehri and Menticoglou will characterize the microbial composition of the AF of women with and without PTB symptoms using MiSeq illumina sequencing in parallel with the conventional cultivation methods.