Natalia Akopyants, PhD

Natalia Akopyants, PhD, is an instructor of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine. A native of Moscow, she earned her master’s degree in genetics from Lomonosov Moscow State University and her doctorate in molecular biology and genetics from the Russian Academy of Science/Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry. She then subsequently completed her postdoctoral training at Washington University in St. Louis.

Akopyants is best known to the scientific community for her research on the genetics and pathogenesis of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that colonizes the stomach of most persons during their lives, causes chronic active gastritis, and constitutes a major risk factor for the development of duodenal and peptic ulcers and gastric carcinomas. She developed efficient, sensitive DNA fingerprinting methods for H. pylori, experiments that showed H. pylori to be a remarkably diverse species, and indicated that these fingerprinting methods should allow patterns of transmission of the bacterium in families and small population groups to be traced, and thus the spread of the infection to be minimized. She is also known for her genetic studies of Leishmania major, a causative agent of leishmaniasis, a widespread group of parasitic diseases varying from spontaneously healing skin lesions to fatal visceral disease. A recipient of several awards, she has authored more than 60 abstracts and manuscripts. At Washington University, she serves on the Committee on Admissions and is very interested and active in community service.