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Rekha R. Rapaka, MD, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:



Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-8085


(410) 706-6205

Education and Training

Stanford University, B.S., A.B (Biological Sciences-Honors, Philosophy), 2001

University of Pittsburgh Medical Scientist Training Program, Ph.D. (Immunology), 2008; M.D., 2010

Johns Hopkins University Bayview Medical Center, Internal Medicine Residency, 2014

University of Maryland School of Medicine, Adult Infectious Diseases Fellowship (ABIM Research Pathway), 2018

Vaccinology Fellowship (NIH T32) University of Maryland Center for Vaccine Development 2016-2018


I have approached science with the aim of addressing gaps in our ability to effectively prevent or treat infectious diseases.   During my Ph.D., in the laboratory of Jay Kolls, I studied how antibodies and cell wall carbohydrate antigens are involved in host defense pathways against fungal infections.  My Ph.D. thesis led to the discovery that natural IgM antibodies against conserved fungal carbohydrates link innate and adaptive immune host defense mechanisms against fungal pathogens.   In my Vaccinology fellowship, conducted in the laboratory of Marcelo Sztein, we have studied how biologic differences between the major strains of invasive Salmonella impact T cell memory immune responses in humans.  These studies have involved use of samples derived from a controlled challenge infection with Salmonella Typhi in human volunteers.   

There are no vaccines against some of the most important strains of invasive Salmonella, and there is increasing antimicrobial resistance against these infections.  I am interested in how innate and adaptive immune responses intersect in humans, and how improved understandings of innate immune programming responses in humans, by cells specializing in the recognition and processing of bacteria, could help us design better vaccines against invasive Salmonella.    These projects are currently supported by an NIH K08 Clinicial-Scientist Career Development Award.

I am also an Infectious Diseases Attending at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where I help to care for adult patients suffering from a variety of different infectious diseases.  Within clinical research, I am interested optimization of vaccines to prevent infectious diseases in immunosuppressed hosts. 



Highlighted Publications

Rapaka RR, Wahid, R,  Fresnay S,   Darton TC, Jones C,  Waddington CS,   Blohmke CJ,  Angus B., Levine MM, Pollard, AJ, Sztein MB. Oral wild-type Salmonella Typhi challenge in human volunteers: Assessment of CD8+ T cell multifunctionality and cross-reactivity against Typhoidal and Invasive Non-Typhoidal Salmonella serovars.  Oral Platform Presentation.   18th International Congress of Mucosal Immunology, Washington DC, July 2017

Rapaka RR, Ricks DM, Alcorn JF, Chen K, Khader SA, Zheng M, Plevy S, Bengten E, Kolls JK.  Conserved natural IgM antibodies mediate innate and adaptive immunity against the opportunistic fungus Pneumocystis murina. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 2010;207(13):2907-19.  (Faculty 1000 rating-10- Exceptional)

Rapaka RR, Dai G, Zheng M, and Kolls JK. CD4+ T Cell Regulation of Antibodies Cross-Reactive with Fungal Cell Wall-Associated Carbohydrates after Pneumocystis murina Infection. Infection and Immunity. 2019;87(7).

Rapaka RR, Fischer M, Finucane TE, and Mwakingwe A. Bigger Foot: Kaposi's Sarcoma. American Journal of Medicine. 2015;128(9):959-62.

Gopal R, Rapaka RR, and Kolls JK. Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome associated with pulmonary pathogens. European Respiratory Review. 2017;26(143).

Steele C, Rapaka RR, Metz A, Pop SM, Williams DL, Gordon S, Kolls JK, Brown GD.  The beta-glucan receptor dectin-1 recognizes specific morphologies of Aspergillus fumigatus. PLoS Pathogens. 2005;1(4):e42.

Zheng M, Ramsay AJ, Robichaux MB, Kliment C, Crowe C, Rapaka RR, Steele C, McAllister F, Shellito JE, Marrero L, Schwarzenberger P, Zhong Q, Kolls JK. CD4+ T cell-independent DNA vaccination against opportunistic infections. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2005;115(12):3536-44

Additional Publication Citations

Rapaka RR, Goetzman ES, Zheng M, Vockley J, McKinley L, Kolls JK, Steele C. Enhanced defense against Pneumocystis carinii mediated by a novel dectin-1 receptor Fc fusion protein. J Immunol. 2007;178(6):3702-12.

Mattila PE, Metz AE, Rapaka RR, Bauer LD, and Steele C. Dectin-1 Fc targeting of aspergillus fumigatus beta-glucans augments innate defense against invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2008;52(3):1171-2.

Rapaka RR, and Kolls JK. Pathogenesis of allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in cystic fibrosis: current understanding and future directions. Med Mycol. 2009;47 Suppl 1:S331-7.

Zheng M, Rapaka RR, Yu AC, Shellito JE, and Kolls JK. Role of interleukin-23-dependent antifungal immune responses in dendritic cell-vaccinated mice. Infect Immun. 2011;79(9):3778-83.

Clinical Specialty Details

Adult Infectious Diseases.  I have attended on the General, Medical ICU, and Surgical Infectious Diseases Services at UMMC.

ABIM certification Internal Medicine 2016, Diplomate

ABIM certification Infectious Diseases 2017, Diplomate

Awards and Affiliations

2006-2010 Ruth L Kirschstein NIH F30 National Research Service Award

2008   American Association of Immunologists Trainee Abstract Award  

2014   Chief Residents Profiles In Excellence Award, American College of Physicians Maryland Chapter

2019   UMB Institute for Clinical and Translational Research Voucher Award

2019   Passano Foundation Clinician-Scientist Award 

Grants and Contracts

2019-present: NIAID-NIH Mentored Clinical Scientist K08 Career Development Award: "Human Cellular Immune Programming Against Invasive Salmonella"

Professional Activity

Memberships: American Association of Immunologists, Society for Mucosal Immunology, Infectious Diseases Society of America, American Society for Microbiology 

Links of Interest