Talima Pearson

Talima Pearson Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor
Pathogen and Microbiome Division

Talima Pearson Ph.D.

Dr. Talima Pearson’s research is focused on the identification, dispersal, transmission, and evolution of microbial pathogens. Recent technological advances in sequencing technologies have resulted in a massive increase in our knowledge about microbial communities and their association with our health. We now know that many microbes once thought to have commensal relationships with humans can actually be pathogenic under certain circumstances. Conversely, some microbial community members are critical for preventing dysbiosis and even the success of therapeutic treatment. The immediate goals of my research on the human microbiome are to identify microbial species associated with disease, health, and treatment efficacy. Long-term translational goals include culturing, isolation, and manipulating the microbiome to reduce the burden of disease.

Dr. Pearson grew up in Ghana, New Mexico, and Swaziland. In 1996, he received his B.A. in Biology from Earlham College in Indiana after which he worked on a number of bird conservation projects. This work led him to Dr. Paul Keim’s molecular genetics laboratory to work on conservation and behavioral genetics of the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher for his Master’s degree. After receiving his M.S. in 2002, Dr. Pearson began working on characterizing the population genetics of Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of Anthrax. Under the direction of Dr. Keim, he received his Ph.D. in 2009 for his work using whole genome sequencing to trace the evolution and spread of a number of different bacterial pathogens. Dr. Pearson continued his work at Northern Arizona University as an Assistant Research Professor and joined the TGen team in 2016. He currently holds a dual appointment with NAU and TGen.



Barragan, V., S. Olivas, P. Keim, and T. Pearson. 2017. Critical knowledge gaps in our understanding about environmental cycling and transmission of Leptospira. Appl. Environ. Microbiol.

Sahl, J. W., T. Pearson, R. Okinaka, J. M. Schupp, J. D. Gillece, H. Heaton, D. Birdsell, C. Hepp, V. Fofanov, R. Noseda, A. Fasanella, A. Hoffmaster, D. M. Wagner, and P. Keim. 2016. A Bacillus anthracis Genome Sequence from the Sverdlovsk 1979 Autopsy Specimens. MBio 7.

Barragan, V., J. Chiriboga, E. Miller, S. Olivas, D. Birdsell, C. Hepp, H. Hornstra, J. M. Schupp, M. Morales, M. Gonzalez, S. Reyes, C. de la Cruz, P. Keim, R. Hartskeerl, G. Trueba, and T. Pearson. 2016a. High Leptospira Diversity in Animals and Humans Complicates the Search for Common Reservoirs of Human Disease in Rural Ecuador. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 10:e0004990.

Olivas, S., H. Hornstra, R. A. Priestley, E. Kaufman, C. Hepp, D. L. Sonderegger, K. Handady, R. F. Massung, P. Keim, G. J. Kersh, and T. Pearson. 2016. Massive dispersal of Coxiella burnetii among cattle across the United States. Microbial Genomics.

Pearson, T., J. H. Cocking, H. M. Hornstra, and P. Keim. 2016. False detection of Coxiella burnetii—what is the risk? FEMS Microbiology Letters 363:fnw088.

Keim, P., R. Grunow, R. Vipond, G. Grass, A. Hoffmaster, D. N. Birdsell, S. R. Klee, S. Pullan, M. Antwerpen, B. N. Bayer, J. Latham, K. Wiggins, C. Hepp, T. Pearson, T. Brooks, J. Sahl, and D. M. Wagner. 2015. Whole Genome Analysis of Injectional Anthrax Identifies Two Disease Clusters Spanning More Than 13 Years. EBioMedicine.

Eppinger, M., T. Pearson, S. S. Koenig, O. Pearson, N. Hicks, S. Agrawal, F. Sanjar, K. Galens, S. Daugherty, J. Crabtree, R. S. Hendriksen, L. B. Price, B. P. Upadhyay, G. Shakya, C. M. Fraser, J. Ravel, and P. S. Keim. 2014. Genomic epidemiology of the Haitian cholera outbreak: a single introduction followed by rapid, extensive, and continued spread characterized the onset of the epidemic. MBio 5:e01721.

Pearson, T., H. M. Hornstra, J. W. Sahl, S. Schaack, J. M. Schupp, S. M. Beckstrom-Sternberg, M. W. O'Neill, R. A. Priestley, M. D. Champion, J. S. Beckstrom-Sternberg, G. J. Kersh, J. E. Samuel, R. F. Massung, and P. Keim. 2013. When outgroups fail; phylogenomics of rooting the emerging pathogen, Coxiella burnetii. Syst Biol 62:752-762.

Price, E. P., D. S. Sarovich, M. Mayo, A. Tuanyok, K. P. Drees, M. Kaestli, S. M. Beckstrom-Sternberg, J. S. Babic-Sternberg, T. J. Kidd, S. C. Bell, P. Keim, T. Pearson, and B. J. Currie. 2013. Within-host evolution of Burkholderia pseudomallei over a twelve-year chronic carriage infection. MBio 4.

Price, L. B., M. Stegger, H. Hasman, M. Aziz, J. Larsen, P. S. Andersen, T. Pearson, A. E. Waters, J. T. Foster, J. Schupp, J. Gillece, E. Driebe, C. M. Liu, B. Springer, I. Zdovc, A. Battisti, A. Franco, J. Zmudzki, S. Schwarz, P. Butaye, E. Jouy, C. Pomba, M. C. Porrero, R. Ruimy, T. C. Smith, D. A. Robinson, J. S. Weese, C. S. Arriola, F. Yu, F. Laurent, P. Keim, R. Skov, and F. M. Aarestrup. 2012. Staphylococcus aureus CC398: host adaptation and emergence of methicillin resistance in livestock. MBio 3.

Pearson, T., P. Giffard, S. Beckstrom-Sternberg, R. Auerbach, H. Hornstra, A. Tuanyok, E. P. Price, M. B. Glass, B. Leadem, J. S. Beckstrom-Sternberg, G. J. Allan, J. T. Foster, D. M. Wagner, R. T. Okinaka, S. H. Sim, O. Pearson, Z. Wu, J. Chang, R. Kaul, A. R. Hoffmaster, T. S. Brettin, R. A. Robison, M. Mayo, J. E. Gee, P. Tan, B. J. Currie, and P. Keim. 2009b. Phylogeographic reconstruction of a bacterial species with high levels of lateral gene transfer. BMC Biol 7:78.

Pearson, T., J. D. Busch, J. Ravel, T. D. Read, S. D. Rhoton, J. M. U'Ren, T. S. Simonson, S. M. Kachur, R. R. Leadem, M. L. Cardon, M. N. Van Ert, L. Y. Huynh, C. M. Fraser, and P. Keim. 2004. Phylogenetic discovery bias in Bacillus anthracis using single-nucleotide polymorphisms from whole-genome sequencing. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101:13536-13541.

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