CONTACT: JENNIFER CRONIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9917; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Nov. 4, 1999
UI receives $4.7 million to study immune responses
to microbial infection
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Department
of Internal Medicine has received a five-year, $4.7 million grant to investigate
innate immune response to microbial infection.
The cooperative, interdisciplinary studies involve
researchers from the departments of internal medicine and microbiology. The
investigators will look specifically at meningitis caused by the bacterium
serogroup B of Neisseria meningitidis.
Meningitis is an infection or inflammation of the
meninges (the lining around the brain and spinal column) and can be caused
by various infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. In most
cases of meningococcal infection, N. meningitidis is spread from person to
person by a respiratory route. In some individuals, the organism invades the
bloodstream, causing an infection known as meningococcemia. Bacterial meningitis
and meningococcemia are serious diseases which, left untreated, can progress
relatively rapidly to cause severe brain or other organ damage or death.
Meningococcal disease in general, and meningitis in
particular, has very high morbidity and mortality rates even when treated
with appropriate antibiotics. Although very effective vaccines are available
for most common strains of meningococci that cause meningitis, currently no
effective human vaccine exists for the serogroup B, said principal investigator
William M. Nauseef, M.D., UI professor of internal medicine and member of
the UI Inflammation Program.
In addition to Nauseef, the other UI study leaders
include Michael Apicella, M.D., professor and head of microbiology, and Jerrold
Weiss, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and microbiology.
The UI-based research team, through a number of individual
projects, plan to examine fundamental aspects of the early interaction of
meningococci with components of the hosts immune system.
"There are several clinical reasons why we chose
to look at the fundamental biology of host response to this particular organism,"
Nauseef said. "However, we are confident that the lessons we learn from
the meningococcus will in turn advance our understanding of other microbe-host
defense interactions as well, thus contributing to the control of disease
and the improvement of health."
The grant comes from the National Institutes of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Funding
support began September 30.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership
between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the
patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.