Brent L. Williams, PhD

  • Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Pathology and Cell Biology (in the Center for Infection and Immunity) at CUMC
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Academic Appointments

  • Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Pathology and Cell Biology (in the Center for Infection and Immunity) at CUMC

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, 1997 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • PhD, 2006 Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine


Brent L. Williams, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University. Dr. William’s research focuses on the role of the microbiome in human health and disease. The human body harbors ten times as many microbial cells as human cells, and these complex, symbiotic microbial communities play a fundamental physiological role in maintaining human health through various mechanisms relating to digestion, metabolism, immunity, protection from infections, and development. Dr. Williams applies state-of-the-art sequencing and computational techniques to gain mechanistic insights into how disruption of the human symbiotic microbial consortium contributes to disturbed host-microbe relationships and development of pathophysiological states. His research relating to these topics is broad in scope ranging from investigations into the role of the microbiome in neurodevelopment and autism; mechanisms by which microbial metabolites influence epigenetic changes in colorectal cancer; identification of vaginal microbial community states that contribute to inflammation, adverse pregnancy outcomes and HIV risk; and evolutionary factors governing the structure of our microbiome through investigation of our closest living primate relatives.

Research Interests

  • Defining host-microbiome interactions that underlie host pathology
  • Determining the impact of environment on microbiome disturbances and neurodevelopment
  • Gaining insights into the evolution of the human microbiome from extant primates
  • Investigating the role of the intestinal and vaginal microbiome in human health
  • Understanding role of the vaginal microbiome in susceptibility to HIV and adverse pregnancy outcomes

Selected Publications

Masson L, Passmore JA, Liebenberg LJ, Werner L, Baxter C, Arnold KB, Williamson C, Little F, Mansoor LE, Naranbhai V, Lauffenburger DA, Ronacher K, Walzl G, Garrett NJ, Williams BL, Couto-Rodriguez M, Hornig M, Lipkin WI, Grobler A, Abdool Karim Q, Abdool Karim SS. Genital Inflammation and the Risk of HIV Acquisition in Women. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Jul 15;612):260-269.

Rodó X, Curcoll R, Robinson M, Ballester J, Burns JC, Cayan DR, Lipkin WI, Williams BL, et al. Tropospheric winds from northeastern China carry the etiologic agent of Kawasaki disease from its source to Japan. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jun 3;111(22):7952-7.

*Williams BL, Hornig M, Parekh T, Lipkin WI. Application of novel PCR-based methods for detection, quantitation, and phylogenetic characterization of Sutterella species in intestinal biopsy samples from children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances. MBio. 2012 Jan 10; 3(1). Pii: e00261-11.

*Williams BL, Hornig M, Buie T, Bauman ML, Cho Paik M, Wick I, Bennett A, Jabado O, Hirschberg DL, Lipkin WI. Impaired carbohydrate digestion and transport and mucosal dysbiosis in the intestines of children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances. PLoS One. 2011; 6(9):e24585.

Kapoor A, Hornig M, Asokan A, Williams B, Henriquez JA, Lipkin WI. Bocavirus episome in infected human tissue contains non-identical termini. PLoS One. 2011; 6(6):e21362.

Honkavuori KS, Shivaprasad HL, Williams BL, Quan PL, Hornig M, Street C, Palacios G, Hutchison SK, Franca M, Egholm M, Briese T, Lipkin WI. Novel Borna Virus in Psittacine Birds with Proventricular Dilatation, Disease. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2008; 14: 1883-1886.

*Williams BL, Hornig M, Yaddanapudi K, Lipkin WI. Hippocampal Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase 1 and caspase 3 activation in neonatal Bornavirus infection. Journal of Virology. 2008; 82: 1748-1758.

*Williams BL, Yaddanapudi K, Kirk CM, Hornig M, Lipkin WI. Spatiotemporal analysis of cerebellar Purkinje cell degeneration relative to parasagittal expression domains in a model of neonatal viral infection. Journal of Virology. 2007; 81: 2675-2687.

*Williams BL, Yaddanapudi K, Kirk CM, Soman A, Hornig M, Lipkin WI. Metallothioneins and zinc dysregulation contribute to neurodevelopmental damage in a model of perinatal viral infection. Brain Pathology. 2006; 16: 1-14.

*Williams BL, Lipkin WI. Endoplasmic reticulum stress and neurodegeneration in rats neonatally infected with Borna disease virus. Journal of Virology. 2006; 80: 8613-8626.

Macdonald J, Tonry J, Hall RA, Williams B, Palacios G, Mundrigi AS, Jabado O, Clark D, Tesh RB, Briese T, Lipkin WI. NS1 protein secretion during the acute phase of West Nile virus infection. Journal of Virology. 2005; 79:13924-13933.