$10.7 Million NIH Grant to University of Maryland Schools of Dentistry and Medicine Funds Study of New Ways to Predict, Prevent, and Treat Sexually Transmitted Infections
|A $10.7 million grant to the University
of Maryland School of Dentistry and the University of Maryland School of
Medicine will fund the collaborative study of biomarkers associated
with sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, in hopes of
finding new ways to predict the infection and developing new vaccines
or treatments. The five-year grant from the National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is the renewal of a previous $12
million, five-year grant awarded in 2009, bringing the project's total
to $22.7 million.
The health effects of infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are
significant and widespread. Chlamydia
trachomatis genital infections are the most common bacterial
infectious disease in America, with 2.8 million cases reported
annually. Neisseria gonorrhoeae,
or gonorrhea, causes 820,000 infections in America each year. These
infections together cause most of the 750,000 cases of pelvic
inflammatory disease seen each year in the U.S. Pelvic inflammatory
disease, in turn, is a leading cause of infertility and
life-threatening conditions such as ectopic pregnancy in women.
"We believe that this project will generate new essential knowledge
into the mechanisms of sexually transmitted infection and disease as
they occur, both in the human host and within the microbes that cause
chlamydia and gonorrhea," says co-principal investigator Patrik
Bavoil, PhD, professor and chair of the Department
of Microbial Pathogenesis at the School of Dentistry.
"We will be identifying human and microbial biomarkers that will tell
us who is most susceptible to infection, who is most susceptible to
severe disease, even in the absence of symptoms," adds Bavoil, who is
also an adjunct professor in the Department of
Microbiology and Immunology at the School of Medicine. "These
biomarkers could also provide us with new targets for novel ways to
prevent and treat STIs and STDs long before these microbes have a
chance to endanger a woman's reproductive health."
The research is an example of an emerging field of genomics, the study
of the microbiome - the bacteria or microbes that live on and in the
human body. These microbes interact with the human genome, and in the
case of infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, they also interact
with the genetics of the pathogen causing the infection. Bavoil's and
Ravel's research will examine this interaction.
"This grant is particularly significant because it is the first time
that a comprehensive systems biology approach will be utilized to
conduct STD research with the ultimate goal of developing knowledge to
prognose, diagnose, prevent and treat sexually transmitted infection
and disease," says co-principal investigator Jacques
Ravel, PhD, professor of the Department of Microbiology and
Immunology at the School of Medicine and associate director for
genomics at the School of Medicine's Institute for Genome Sciences.
"By looking at how human genetics and the microbiome affect and
influence infections in humans, we can gain a much better understanding
of how to protect against these types of infection, which is critical
for improving public health."
The new grant establishes a Cooperative Research Center on Sexually
Transmitted Infection led by the two schools of the University of
Maryland, Baltimore and including an international consortium of
researchers from many other institutions, including the Johns Hopkins
University, the University of New South Wales, Australia, Duke
University, Loyola University Chicago, the University of Idaho, and the
University of Virginia.
The previous research grant awarded in 2009 established a Cooperative
Research Center that forms the foundation for this new grant renewal.
The original grant established STI Network Groups, consisting of
multiple networks of sexual partners in which at least one partner is
infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia. Participants in these STI Network
Groups agree to submit genital swab samples so that the scientists can
analyze changes in the vaginal and urogenital microbiome over time.
This clinical core of the research project involves Katrina
S. Mark, MD, instructor in the Department of Obstetrics,
Gynecology and Reproductive Services at the School of Medicine and Rebecca
M. Brotman, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of the Department of
Epidemiology and Public Health at the School of Medicine and a
research scientist at the Institute for Genome Sciences.
Researchers at the University of Maryland and the partner institutions
will examine the samples taken from participants in the STI Network
Groups and will analyze them using cutting edge genomic, immunologic
and genetic techniques. The scientists will try to identify molecular
biomarkers to help them predict who is at risk for STIs and who is less
likely to become infected based on the subject's own genetics, the
subject's genital microbiome composition and function and the
pathogen's unique genome. The scientists hope to use those biomarkers
to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic techniques for STIs.
The research grant funds three main projects. One project will examine
whether host genetics play an important role in determining
susceptibility to STIs and predicting the severity of the resulting
disease. That project will examine the role of human genetic variance
in dictating the outcome of the "dialog" between the pathogen, the
microbiota and the host.
Another project, led by Bavoil and a collaborator in Sydney, Australia,
focuses upon identifying certain biomarkers of chlamydia infection,
chlamydia/gonorrhea co-infection and pelvic inflammatory disease. It
will examine the possibility of translating these biomarkers into
clinical tools for diagnoses and prevention.
Ravel will lead another project aimed at using a systems biology
approach to identify biomarkers of the penile and vaginal microbiomes,
the genetic variation of the host and the genetics of the pathogens
associated with increased or decreased risk of infection by chlamydia,
gonorrhea or both.
Ravel will further support the project by leading a genomics core to
leverage the state-of-the-art capabilities of the Institute for Genome
Sciences' Genomics Resource Center and Informatics Resource Center.
|Posting Date: 07/29/2014
|Contact Name: Karen Robinson
|Contact Phone: 410-706-0023
|Contact Email: email@example.com