Center for Women's Infectious Disease Research (cWIDR)


Addressing infectious diseases of the female urinary and reproductive tracts

Infectious diseases in women are a major world health problem. We aim to understand infectious processes at a fundamental level and quickly translate that knowledge into better methods of treatment and prevention.


Prevent and treat infectious diseases of the urinary and reproductive tracts to alleviate suffering worldwide

Recognize commonalities and apply effective solutions broadly

Explain diseases not yet known to be related to infection

Prepare the next generation of science leaders

Michael Caparon, PhD, and Scott Hultgren, PhD

Directors: Michael Caparon, PhD, and Scott Hultgren, PhD

We are conducting the collaborative science needed to discover new drugs and vaccines that will make a huge difference in the lives of millions of women and children all over the world.

— Scott Hultgren, PhD


The Center for Women's Infectious Disease Research (cWIDR) is dedicated to finding better methods for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases of the female urinary and reproductive tracts.

Women's infectious diseases cause a tremendous amount of human suffering worldwide, but are underserved in medical science. Urinary tract infections, for example, although not fatal, are a significant source of suffering, lost work days and health care expense; some infections experienced during pregnancy or at birth can lead to serious disease in the newborn, and infection may also play a role in some autoimmune disorders and other chronic diseases. By finding ways to effectively treat or prevent these infections, cWIDR's work holds the promise to significantly improve the lives of women and their families worldwide.

Topics of study include:

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

  • Infections that lead to premature delivery and vaginitis

  • Life-threatening infections in newborn infants

  • Potential contributing roles for microorganisms in life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders and diabetes

  • Interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome

  • Sexually transmitted diseases

  • Toxic shock syndrome

  • Serious infections affecting the fetus and newborn

Researchers at cWIDR also study whether microorganisms play a role in serious diseases not previously known to be related to infection. For example, we now know, surprisingly, that stomach ulcers and most cervical cancers are the result of infections. Similarly, research now suggests that bacteria may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease plaques and that the immune system contributes to vascular plaque formation.

cWIDR scientists work in collaboration with colleagues from other research centers, including The Genome Institute. The result is a synergistic network of experts from microbial pathogenesis, genomics, structural biology, biochemistry and biophysics, imaging and other areas. cWIDR scientists hope to identify common mechanisms of infection and to devise solutions that can be applied in multiple diseases.


Director: Scott Hultgren, PhD, Helen L. Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology

Co-Director: Michael Caparon, PhD, professor of molecular microbiology