CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-8034
Release: Nov. 9, 1999
Researcher gets grant to study cause of neurologic
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa Health Care
pediatrician has received a grant from the National Institute for Neurological
Disorders and Stroke, within the National Institutes of Health, to study neurologic
birth defects caused by infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus
(LCMV), an infection transmitted by field mice and other rodents.
Daniel Bonthius, M.D., Ph.D., UI assistant professor
of pediatrics and the study's principal investigator, said the three-year,
$267,120 Mentored Clinical Scientist Award will help fund the first study
of its kind at the UI. The grant was effective Sept. 30. Stanley Perlman,
M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of pediatrics and microbiology, is serving as Bonthius'
mentor for the study.
About 10 percent of all Americans carry antibodies
to LCMV, indicating prior infection. Most people become infected with the
virus during the late fall and winter months, when mice, in whom the virus
is endemic, move into people's homes for the winter.
A pregnant woman infected by the virus usually has
only mild symptoms such as fever, malaise or headache. However, the infection
puts the fetus at risk for severe brain defects that can result in mental
retardation, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
"We are attempting to discover the molecular and cellular
mechanisms by which the virus, and the immune response to it, interact to
damage the developing brain," Bonthius said. "LCMV is a human pathogen that
is probably responsible for far more cases of fetal brain injury than has
previously been recognized."
Bonthius said that newborn infants with microcephaly
(abnormally small head usually accompanied by mental retardation), hydrocephalus
(abnormal fluid increase in the cranial cavity), epilepsy or cerebral palsy
should probably be evaluated for congenital LCMV infection, if no other explanation
for their condition is apparent.
Although no treatment for LCMV infection exists, pregnant
women can minimize their risk of becoming infected with the virus by taking
steps to eliminate mice in their homes, especially during the fall and early
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.