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Michelle Steinauer, PhD

Assistant Professor

College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific - Northwest

E-Mail: msteinauer@westernu.edu

Phone: 0233Join year: 2012


Postdoctoral Fellow, University of New Mexico, 2007
Ph.D. Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2004
M.S. Biological Sciences, Southeastern Louisiana University, 1999
B.S. Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1996

Education Experience

Illness in and from the Tropics – Learning from Endemic and Imported Disease. American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Clinical Course.
American Association of Veterinary Parasitologists Educators Meeting. National Institutes of Health, Beltsville, MD.
Introduction to QTL mapping. Summer Institute of Statistical Genetics, University of Washington.

Professional Experience

Senior Research Assistant Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University
Research Assistant Professor of Biology, University of New Mexico

Teaching Experience

Assistant Professor, COMP-NW 2012-current
Instructor, Zoology, Oregon State University. Evolutionary Biology (Bi 445/545). 2012
Co-instructor for Veterinary Parasitology (VMB 760) at Oregon State University. 2008-current
Instructor, Microbiology, Oregon State University. Co-instructed the Parasitology (MB480/580) course. 2011
Instructor for Parasitology (BIOS 385) at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. 2004
Instructor for DNA Sequence Analysis Workshop (BIOS 497/897) at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. 2004


Introduction to Disease, Immunity and Therapeutics (Vice-director)
Blood and Lymphatics
Gastrointestinal and Nutrition

Research Interest

My research is focused on the interface between the ecology, evolution, genetics, and epidemiology of parasitic organisms. I am particularly interested in five broad research topics: 1. Transmission dynamics of parasitic organisms including how geography and life history characteristics influence transmission and the distribution of populations. 2. The evolutionary processes of pathogens that affect disease dynamics including hybridization and gene introgression. 3. The mechanisms by which parasites invade hosts and by which hosts resist or tolerate pathogens. 4. Determining how pathogen communities interact to produce disease. 5. Improving control of parasitic infections. I use a combination of field and lab based research and a variety of molecular and analytical techniques to address these topics.

Research Projects

  1. Profiling a natural product that is lethal to schistosome parasites. Schistosomes are blood flukes that infect over 200 million people worldwide, especially in tropical, developing regions. These pathogens induce a chronic insidious disease that is difficult to control. Currently, there is a massive global campaign to reduce and even eliminate schistosomes in some endemic areas primarily through drug treatment. There is only one drug (praziquantel) that is available to treat all species of schistosomes, which raises the concern of drug resistance. Drug resistant schistosomes can be easily developed in the laboratory, and drug resistance worms have been found in regions with heavy treatment. Because of the looming concern of drug resistance, there is a great need to develop alternative drugs and alternative strategies for control. In our laboratory we are actively working to characterize a compound that is naturally produced by rotifers, aquatic microorganisms, and is lethal to schistosomes in vitro. Are goals are to determine the identity of the compound and how it could be used to control schistosomiasis.
  2. Genetic Epidemiology of Schistosomes. We use genetic markers to understand the geographic and intrahost distribution patterns of schistosomes, to estimate worm burdens within humans, and to monitor the efficacy of drug treatment programs. Because schistosomes cannot be sampled directly from their human hosts, we have developed techniques to sample their offspring which can be easily obtained in fecal samples. We have also developed methodology to remove the bias inherent in these data when using them in population genetic analyses to infer information about the adult population. We are currently working to determine the viability of using genetic markers as a way to determine the worm burdens within an individual and to monitor the success of drug treatment programs. This work is collaborative with my colleagues Dr. Gerald Mkoji at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute and Eric S. Loker at the University of New Mexico.
  3. Determinants of the compatibility between hosts and pathogens. Schistosome parasites are vectored through a snail host before they infect humans. Interestingly, not all snails in a population are susceptible to infection, and other snails can be highly susceptible to infection and highly tolerant of infection. These latter snails can become superspreaders of disease and even a few individuals can greatly increase the risk of infection to humans. Using inbred lines of both African and South American snail species, we are working to uncover the mechanisms that control susceptibility and resistance so that they may be manipulated to break the life cycle of the pathogen and reduce infection in humans. We are also working to characterize the genetic variation in the host’s response to pathogens and how this affects pathogen reproduction or fitness within the snail. These characteristics are those that can drive the co-evolution of host and pathogen and can have a large effect on the disease risk.

Research Grant

  • Western University of Health Sciences Intramural Research Fund. Role: PI. Co-PI: Thomas Squire. Characterization of a natural antiparasitic that is lethal to schistosomes. ($40,000). 2014-2015.
  • Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology, University of New Mexico. The roles of host tolerance and resistance in defense against pathogens. ($80,000). 2011-2013.
  • AECOM, Assessment of pathogen communities of fishes within two watersheds of the Yukon Territory, Canada. ($78,948). 2011-2012.
  • College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Profiling a natural product with anti-parasitic effects. ($10,000). 2011-2012
  • Graduate Research Fund, Oregon State University, Pathogen adaptation to novel hosts through introgressive hybridization. ($10,000). 2010-2011
  • College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Eco-immunology of schistosomes in African Buffalo. ($8000). 2009-2010


Most Outstanding Basic Sciences Faculty of the Year, student voted (co-recipient). COMP-NW. 2013
American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Young Investigator Award. 2007
American Society of Parasitologists Best Student Presentation Award. 2003
American Midwestern Conference of Parasitology LaRue Award for Best Student Presentation. 2003
Southwestern Society of Parasitologists David Becker Award for Best Student Presentation. 2003


American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
American Society of Parasitologists


Curriculum Committee (Vice-chair)
Curriculum Exploration Task Force


Selected Publications

  • Steinauer, M.L. & B.B. Nickol. In Press. Revision of the Leptorhynchoides thecatus (Acanthocephala: Illiosentidae), with morphometric analysis and description of five new species. Journal of Parasitology.
  • Lelo, A.E., D.N. Mburu, G.N. Magoma, B.N. Mungai, J.H. Kihara, I.N. Mwangi, G.M. Maina, J.M. Kinuthia, M.W Mutuku, E.S.Loker, G.M. Mkoji& M.L. Steinauer. 2014. No apparent reduction in schistosome burden or genetic diversity following four years of school-based mass drug administration in Mwea central Kenya a heavy transmission area. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0003221.
  • Steinauer, M.L., M.R. Christie, M.S. Blouin, L.E. Agola, I. N. Mwangi, G.M. Maina, M.W. Mutuku, J.M. Kinuthia, G.M. Mkoji, E.S. Loker. 2013. Non-invasive sampling of schistosome parasites from humans requires correcting for family structure. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 7(9): e2456. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0002456.
  • Steinauer, M.L., M.S. Blouin, & C.D. Criscione. 2010. Invited review: Applying evolutionary genetics to schistosome epidemiology. Infection Genetics and Evolution 10(4): 433-443.
  • Steinauer, M.L., B. Hanelt, L.E. Agola, G.M. Mkoji, & E.S. Loker. 2009. Genetic structure of Schistosoma mansoni in western Kenya: the effects of geography and host sharing. International Journal of Parasitology 39: 1353-1362.
  • Melman, S.D., M.L. Steinauer, C. Cunningham, L. Salter-Kubatko, I.N. Mwangi, M. Matuku, D.M.S. Karanja, D.G. Colley, C.L. Black, W.E. Secor, N. Barker, G. Mkoji, & E.S. Loker. 2009. Reduced susceptibility of Kenyan Schistosoma mansoni to praziquantel following repeated exposures: origin, measurement, and likelihood of persistence. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 3(8): e504.
  • Steinauer, M.L. 2009. The sex lives of parasites: Investigating the mating system and mechanisms of sexual selection of the human pathogen Schistosoma mansoni. International Journal for Parasitology 39: 1157-1163.
  • Black, C.L., M. L. Steinauer, P.N.M. Mwinzi, W.E. Secor, D.M.S. Karanja, & D.G. Colley. 2009. Impact of intense, longitudinal retreatment with praziquantel on cure rates of schistosomiasis mansoni in a cohort of occupationally exposed adults in western Kenya. Tropical Medicine & International Health 14(4): 1-8.