Professor Emeritus: Joseph A. Bellanti

Joseph A. Bellanti

Dr. Bellanti is Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology and Immunology (Emeritus).


  • M.D., University of Buffalo, Buffalo, 1958
  • At Georgetown Since: 1963
  • Contact: (202) 687-8227 (301) 938-2940; Email:

About Dr. Bellanti

Dr. Joseph A. Bellanti is Director of the International Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Immunology (ICISI) at Georgetown University Medical Center and Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology-Immunology, (Emeritus) at Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC.

Dr. Joseph A. Bellanti, a native of Buffalo New York, received his M.D. degree from the University of Buffalo in 1958. Following completion of a residency at the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo in 1961, he was accepted into a National Institutes of Health-supported postdoctoral fellowship in a developmental immunology training program at the University of Florida in 1961 under the direction of Richard T. Smith, MD, a pioneering pediatric immunologist and disciple of Robert A. Good, MD (1961-62) and later continued his postdoctoral studies as a research virologist at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), Washington, D.C. (1962-65), where among his many research contributions with his colleagues was the seminal description of the of secretory IgA antiviral principle of respiratory secretions. In 1963, he joined the faculty of Georgetown University School of Medicine as Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology, where he rose to his current position of Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology – Immunology in 1970.

Soon after arriving at Georgetown, he realized that his goal of generating new knowledge in immunology and translating it to clinical use would require adopting a multidisciplinary translational approach to immunology that would involve a horizontal matrix including both basic and clinical investigators, allied health professionals, statisticians, and health educators and the public. Accordingly, in 1975 he established and became the Director of the International Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center and later Director of the Division of Allergy-Immunology, Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Virology and Immunology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine of Georgetown University Hospital. The location of ICISI in the nation’s capital has enhanced its international perspective; students, physicians, and scientists from all over the world are invited to study there.

Dr. Bellanti has focused a major investigative effort on antimicrobial research, evaluation of new vaccine strategies and developmental immunology. Together with other investigators, he has studied antibody and phagocytic cell function in the newborn human and in experimental model systems. He and his colleagues described the antiviral activity of the secretory IgA system in respiratory secretions and later cellular responses to viral infections following immunization or natural infection. A major collaborative effort with Mexican colleagues was directed to the study of protective immune responses to measles vaccine administration via the nasal route, a technique originally developed by Dr. Albert B. Sabin, one of Dr. Bellanti’s scientific teachers and collaborators.

Dr. Bellanti’s academic career has been nurtured by his previous research that has focused on the immunopathogenesis of infectious diseases, and the allergic and autoimmune disorders. His experience as a GUMC clinical investigator was established by a track record of successfully directing major R01, Center and Program Project awards as well as training grants. In addition to teaching medical students and residents, he directed a postgraduate training program in developmental immunology from 1968-1996 and a clinical residency program in allergy and immunology from 1978 -1992. The ICISI has trained over 300 postdoctoral candidates in basic and clinical immunology who come to the Center from the US as well as from countries throughout the world. Dr. Bellanti draws upon his pioneering experience as an established clinical investigator in the field of translational research in immunology.

Dr. Bellanti served on the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, a conjoint board of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics from 1975 to 1980, and was its president from 1979 to 1980.

He is past-president of the Society for Pediatric Research (1980), InterAsma (1987-90), the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI, 1991-92), and Association of Medical Laboratory Immunologists (AMLI, 1992-93). Frequently, he lectures abroad in Europe and South America, sometimes in fluent Spanish or Italian. Dr. Bellanti is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the E. Mead Johnson Award for excellence in pediatric research (1970); the Outstanding Educators of America Award of the William Peck Society (1972), from the American College of Allergy and Immunology; the Humanitarian Award for “excellence and service and teaching of clinical immunology” in 1974, and the Distinguished Fellow Award in 1981. In 1998 he received the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award from the State University of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York. He is also the recipient of two honorary degrees: Honoris causa degrees from the University of Palermo (1992) and Georgetown University (2002).

Dr. Bellanti has published more than 400 scientific articles and abstracts, as well as numerous textbook chapters and his widely acclaimed textbooks in immunology including the fourth edition, “Immunology IV: Clinical Applications in Health and Disease”, which was published in English in 2012 and in Spanish in 2016. In addition to the printed version both are available online with creative illustrations, animations and interactive Q &As in every chapter. Dr. Bellanti’s editorial positions include editor in chief of Pediatric Research from 1975 -1983, editor-in-chief of Annals of Allergy from 1982-1990 and currently editor-in-chief Allergy, Asthma Proceedings (2004- present).


Contribution to Science and Selected Peer-reviewed Publications (Selected from over 400 publications) are available in PubMed here.

1. Early Immunology Publications in Developmental Immunology
Contributions of Dr. Bellanti in the neonatal period and infancy.

In these studies, the formation of flagellar antibody responses of newborn rabbits immunized with salmonella vaccines were found to occur usually by the 7th to 10th day and were characterized primarily by 19S (now IgM) antibody and the 7S (now IgG) did not appear until the 4th or 5th week of life. In contrast, the adult animals produced macroglobulin antibodies for only 3 to 5 days before the lower molecular weight variety appeared. These data were the earliest descriptions of the predominance of IgM responses in the neonate and were also followed by studies of infants born with the congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) recapitulating the IgM predominance seen in the neonatal rabbit. These studies have seen clinical translation and have supported the diagnostic use of IgM neonatal screening for intrauterine fetal infection commonly in use today.

  • Bellanti JA, Eitzman DV, Robbins JB, Smith RT. The development of the immune response. Studies on the agglutinin response to Salmonella flagellar antigens in the newborn rabbit. J Exp Med. 1963;117:479-96.
  • Wainer A, Robbins J, Bellanti J, Eitzman D, Smith RT. Synthesis of gamma-globulin in the newborn rabbit. Nature. 1963;198:487-8.
  • Bellanti JA, Artenstein MS, Olson LC, Buescher EL, Luhrs CE, Milstead KL. Congenital rubella. Clinicopathologic, virologic, and immunologic studies. Am J Dis Child. 1965;110):464-72.

2. Contributions in the Field of Mucosal Immunology

These studies laid the foundations for later work in the field of mucosal immunology which led to the seminal discovery of secretory IgA antibody and its protective role in antiviral immunity. These studies have seen clinical translation and have supported the development of vaccines deliverable by mucosal routes.

  • Artenstein MS, Bellanti JA, Buescher EL. Identification of the antiviral substances in nasal secretions. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1964; 117:558-6.
  • Bellanti JA, Artenstein Ms, Buescher El. Characterization of virus neutralizing in human serum and nasal secretions. J Immunol. 1965; 94:344-51.
  • Smith CB, Purcell RH, Bellanti JA, Chanock RM. Protective effect of antibody to parainfluenza type 1 virus. N Engl J Med. 1966;27):1145-52.
  • Bellanti JA, Sanga RL, Klutinis B, Brandt B, Artenstein MS. Antibody responses in serum and nasal secretions of children immunized with inactivated and attenuated measles-virus vaccines. N Engl J Med. 1969;280:628-33.

3. Contributions in the field of cell-mediated immunity to viral infection or following immunization with viral vaccines

This next phase of Dr. Bellanti’s research, focused on the definition of the complexities of cell-mediated immune responses to viral infection or following immunization with viral vaccines.

These contributions have found clinical application not only in protective immunity to viral infection but also in the pathogenic sequelae of autoimmune diseases.

  • Labowskie R, Edelman R, Rustigian R, Bellanti JA. Studies of cell-mediated immunity to measles virus by in vitro lymphocyte-mediated cytotoxicity. J Infect Dis. 1974; 129:233-9.
  • Steele RW, Hensen SA, Vincent MM, Fuccillo DA, Bellanti JA. Development of specific cellular and humoral immune responses in children immunized with live rubella virus vaccine. J Infect Dis. 1974;130:449-53.
  • Rola-Pleszczynski M, Hurtado RC, Woody JN, Sell KW, Vincent MM, Hensen SA, Bellanti JA. Identification of the cell population involved in viral-specific cell-mediated cytotoxicity in man: evidence for T cell specificity. J Immunol. 1975 Jul;115(1):239-42.
  • Rola-Pleszczynski M, Frenkel LD, Fuccillo DA, Hensen SA, Vincent MM, Reynolds DW, Stagno S, Bellanti JA. Specific impairment of cell-mediated immunity in mothers of infants with congenital infection due to cytomegalovirus. J Infect Dis. 1977;135:386-91.

4. Contributions in translational studies bridging epigenetic mechanisms with immunologically-mediated diseases; allergic, autoimmune diseases

The most recent phase of Dr. Bellanti’s studies have moved towards collaborative studies with basic science colleagues with interest in exploring the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the control of gene expression related to Treg function in the control of the allergic and autoimmune diseases. Below are examples of recent publications of his work,

  • Lawless OJ, Bellanti JA, Brown ML, Sandberg K, Umans JG, Zhou L, Chen W, Wang J, Wang K, Zheng SG. In vitro induction of T regulatory cells by a methylated CpG DNA sequence in humans: Potential therapeutic applications in allergic and autoimmune diseases. Allergy Asthma Proc. 2018; 39:143-152.
  • Mo BY, Guo XH, Yang MR, Liu F, Bi X, Liu Y, Fang LK, Luo XQ, Wang J, Bellanti JA, Pan YF, Zheng SG. Long Non- Coding RNA GAPLINC Promotes Tumor-Like Biologic Behaviors of Fibroblast-Like Synoviocytes as MicroRNA Sponging in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients. Front Immunol. 2018; 9:702.
  • Chen C, Yao W, Wu S, Zhou S, Ge M, Gu Y, Li X, Chen G, Bellanti JA, Zheng SG, Yuan D, Hei Z. Crosstalk Between Connexin32 and Mitochondrial Apoptotic Signaling Pathway Plays a Pivotal Role in Renal Ischemia Reperfusion-Induced Acute Kidney Injury. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2018 Aug 30. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Gong J, Qiu W, Zeng Q, Liu X, Sun X, Li H, Yang Y, Wu A, Bao J, Wang Y, Shu Y, Hu X, Bellanti JA, Zheng SG, Lu Y, Lu Z. Lack of short-chain fatty acids and overgrowth of opportunistic pathogens define dysbiosis of optica spectrum disorders: A Chinese pilot study. Mult Scler. 2018:1352458518790396. [Epub ahead of print]

Medline publication list

Important Links

Immunology IV: Clinical Applications in Health and Disease (new window)
Learn more about Dr. Bellanti’s recently published 4th edition of his textbook of immunology. 

Dr. Joseph A. Bellanti Recently Conferred “Giants In Allergy-Immunology” Award
Dr. Joseph A. Bellanti, MD was recently cited as one of the Giants in Allergy-Immunology in the July, 2016 issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.