Luz Acosta, PhD,is currently on leave from her position as director of immunology at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in the Philippines.
Acosta has led population-based and laboratory-based studies of schistosomiasis for over a decade. Acosta has developed diagnostic tests for circulating S. japonicum antigens, identified vaccine candidates for S. japonicum, conducted immuno-epidemiologic investigations of human resistance to S. japonicum, and studied mechanisms and patterns of schistosomiasis-associated morbidity.
Acosta is currently leading the field-based data collection and RITM-lab based antibody assays for the Center for International Health Research's ongoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) R-01 funded longitudinal study of the impact of pubertal development on protective immunity and morbidity in schistosomiasis japonica.
Acosta is also currently a co-investigator on an ongoing NIH R-01 funded randomized controlled trial of praziquantel (PZQ) during pregnancy and is responsible for the sample collection and immunologic analyses.
A recent pilot study conducted in the Philippines has examined the impact of S. japonicum infection on pregnancy outcomes and identified potential mechanisms mediating the poor birth outcomes in S. japonicum-infected women. This work identified placental inflammatory responses and alternations in iron metabolism in the context of S. japonicum as potential mediating factors. That study laid the groundwork for an RO-1 that will utilize a randomized controlled design to more precisely measure the impact of this infection on maternal and birth outcomes.
This work will also characterize alterations in iron metabolism, nutritional parameters and placental immune responses that may be responsible for adverse birth outcomes. This study is one model of cooperation between clinician-scientists and basic immunologists designed to understand mechanisms of morbidity that should, in turn, guide therapeutic options for pregnant women with this infection and other inflammatory diseases during pregnancy.