Zainab Rangwala

Fourth Year Thesis Student

BSc (Biology), Molecular Biology and Genetics, McMaster University

Zainab is now completing her Master's at the University of Toronto


For my fourth year undergraduate thesis, I joined the Ashkar lab with a vast interest in virology and microbiology. As I am looking to continue my education in bacterial and infectious disease research, working in the Ashkar lab has provided me opportunities to further appreciate these topics.

The replacement of antibiotic/antiviral treatment to drugless therapy to combat sexually transmitted infections has been a recently trending topic. As the number of STI cases skyrocket among teenagers and elders, new advances in the field are critical. My research primarily focuses on using natural immunity of the vaginal tract to enhance protection against STIs, such as bacterial vaginosis and genital herpes. Natural immunity of the vaginal mucosa encompasses the roles of glycogen derived from vaginal epithelial cells, commensal bacteria colonizing the vaginal tract and vaginal pH. The intimate relationship between these elements is yet to be definitively characterized, and thus we are interested in determining their interdependence. Additionally, natural immunity has been observed to fluctuate with age and reproductive capability. Studying such changes may provide insight into the increased susceptibility of STIs in elders and women taking contraception. The eventual goal of this project is to manipulate and enhance natural immunity and provide preventative measures, as well as treatments, against common STIs.