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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 24, 2005

New Investigator Research Award Recipients Announced

Four University of Iowa faculty members have been awarded 2004-05 College of Public Health-College of Medicine New Investigator Research Awards. The awards assist newly appointed primary or joint faculty in the UI College of Public Health or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine to advance their research activities. Each recipient will receive up to $10,000 of funding for independent research projects.

The recipients are: Tarah T. Colaizy, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, division of neonatology; Thomas M. Peters, Ph.D., assistant professor of occupational and environmental health; Philip M. Polgreen, M.D., associate in internal medicine, division of infectious diseases; and Tara C. Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology.

"I was very impressed with the number and quality of the applications. The review committee was thorough in its selection of four proposed studies that show great promise of important contributions to public health," said Leon Burmeister, Ph.D., associate dean of research and academic affairs for the UI College of Public Health.

The New Investigator Research Awards are chosen on the basis of scientific merit, relevance to the College of Public Health mission and probability of attracting subsequent extramural research funding.

The following are descriptions of each of the winning research proposals:

--Tarah T. Colaizy, "PCR Differentiation of Ureaplasma Species and Serovar in a Cohort of VLBW Infants in Whom Ureaplasma Colonization Is Associated with Chronic Lung Disease of Prematurity."

Chronic lung disease of prematurity (CLD) is a major cause of illness and death in very low birth weight (VLBW) babies. The aim of this study is to better understand the origination and development of CLD and to determine if certain subtypes of the infectious organism Ureaplasma urealyticum are associated with it. This knowledge can be used to help develop preventative strategies and treatments for CLD.

--Thomas M. Peters, "Airway and Immune Response to Inhaled Endotoxin and Diesel Exhaust Particles in Humans."

Farm workers and people in surrounding communities are frequently co-exposed to diesel exhaust particles (DEP) and endotoxin. Each contaminant alone has been shown to cause airway inflammation mediated by immune response, but endotoxin and DEP together is a potent mixture that dramatically enhances the proflammatory airway response in rodent models. This project investigates whether this synergism occurs in humans after inhalation at concentrations commonly found in the occupational environment.

--Philip M. Polgreen, "An Application of Network Theory to Optimize Influenza Vaccination Among Health Care Workers."

Health care workers are at especially high risk of contracting influenza. However, there are no data, nor is there a theoretical framework, to identify health care workers who are most likely to acquire and transmit influenza virus. This project will use social network theory to help hospital epidemiologists identify these health care workers and develop effective influenza vaccination strategies.

--Tara C. Smith, "Analysis of Hypervariable Genes in Streptococcus Agalactiae."

One way that invading bacterial pathogens escape detection by the human immune system is to have genes that mutate at a high rate and undergo "positive" or "diversifying" selection. Streptococcus agalactiae is an organism that has a hypervariable region, an area of genes that shows this diversifying selection. This study will be the first to systemically analyze a potential hypervariable region in this bacterium in order to understand the virulence of this pathogen as well as its natural history and evolution.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa, 52242

MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Gleeson, 319-384-4277, kate-gleeson@uiowa.edu