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Cristiana Cairo, PhD

Academic Title:

Assistant Professor

Primary Appointment:

Microbiology and Immunology

Secondary Appointment(s):


Additional Title:

Assistant Professor, Division of Basic Science, Institute of Human Virology


IHV, S 513

Phone (Primary):


Education and Training

Dr. Cairo completed her master degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy, in 2000. After enrolling in the Immunology Ph.D. program at the same University, she carried out her doctoral studies at the San Pietro Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Rome, then at the Centre Integreé des Recherches Bioclinique d’Abidjan, in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, and at the Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine. She received her Ph.D. in immunology in 2005 from the University of Rome Tor Vergata and continued her postdoctoral research at the IHV, where she became Assistant Professor in 2010. Field studies in African countries (Cote D'Ivoire, Cameroon, Nigeria and Malawi) represented a key component of her training and heavily influenced her research interests.


Dr. Cairo is a human immunologist with a primary research interest in innate immune responses to pathogens of global health relevance in neonates and adults. The model cell population for her studies are human γδ T cells, specifically Vγ9Vδ2 cells, a subset of innate-like lymphocytes that respond rapidly to a broad range of microbes (including P. falciparum, M. tuberculosis and HIV). Dr. Cairo’s objective is to study the functional program of these lymphocytes in neonates (including immune-regulatory mechanisms at the fetal-maternal interface) and the impact of pathogen exposure before birth on the development of the infant immune system. Her current research is centered on the effects of prenatal exposure to P. falciparum or HIV on immunity in neonates and infants. Dr. Cairo conducted or aided multiple immunological studies with a field component in African countries. She currently serves as the Principal Investigator for an NIH-funded study in Malawi that focuses on neonates with a detailed history of prenatal exposure to P. falciparum. Dr. Cairo is also interested in the potential of Vγ9Vδ2 T cells for cancer immunotherapeutic approaches and is actively studying the generation/evolution of the Vγ9 repertoire as an example of an anticipatory repertoire selected and maintained in the periphery by recurrent antigen exposure.

Dr. Cairo’s laboratory relies on cellular immunology, molecular biology and epigenetic approaches.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Human immunology, γδ lymphocytes, Neonatal immunity, Malaria, HIV, Infectious diseases, Fetal-maternal interface.

Highlighted Publications

Cairo C, Mancino G, Cappelli G, Pauza CD, Galli E, Brunetti E, Colizzi V. Vdelta2 T-lymphocyte responses in cord blood samples from Italy and Cote d'Ivoire. Immunology. 2008; 124(3):380-7.

Cairo C, Propp N, Auricchio G, Armstrong CL, Abimiku A, Mancino G, Colizzi V, Blattner W, Pauza CD. Altered cord blood gammadelta T cell repertoire in Nigeria: Possible impacts of environmental factors on neonatal immunity. Mol Immunol. 2008; 45(11):3190-7

Cairo C, Sagnia B, Cappelli G, Colizzi V, Leke RGF, Leke RJ, Pauza CD. Human cord blood gd T cells expressing public Vg2 chains dominate the response to bisphosphonate plus IL-15. Immunol. 2013; 138(4):346-60

Cairo C, Longinaker L, Cappelli G, Leke RG, Mve M, Djokam R, Fogako J, Leke RJ, Sagnia B, Sosso SM, Colizzi V, Pauza CD. Cord blood Vg2Vd2 T cells represent a molecular marker for the impact of pregnancy-associated malaria on neonatal immunity. J. Infect. Dis. 2014; 209(10):1653-62

Hsu H, Boudova SE, Mvula G, Divala T, Mungwira R, Harman C, Laufer MK, Pauza CD, Cairo C. Prolonged PD1 expression on neonatal Vd2 lymphocytes dampens pro-inflammatory responses: role of epigenetic regulation. J. Immunol. 2016; 197(5):1884-92