The Center for International Health Research (CIHR) has worked under a series of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Gates Foundation, The Thrasher Research Fund and the National Blood Foundation.
Ongoing research activities include:
- Developing vaccines for malaria and schistosomiasis in Kenya and the Philippines
- Identifying the mechanisms of naturally acquired protective immune responses and mechanisms of nutritional, cognitive and hematologic morbidity associated with schistosomiasis in the Philippines
- Identifying the mechanisms of severe malarial syndromes in Tanzania
- Conducting a randomized placebo controlled trial of praziquantel for the treatment of schistosomiasis during pregnancy in the Philippines
- Identifying the mechanisms of poor pregnancy outcome in schistosome-infected pregnant women in the Philippines
- Training the next generation of global health scientists
An In-Depth Look at Our Research
The CIHR conducts studies addressing the mechanisms of parasitic disease morbidity. A recently completed R01 study has addressed mechanisms of morbidity in S. japonicum infection and identified potential vaccine candidates. This study employed a population-based, longitudinal design which characterizes morbidity in the study population over time, relates this to basic biologic mechanisms of disease (such as cytokine-mediated under-nutrition and dyserythropoiesis), assesses host resistance to infection over time and relates this to immune responses to identify potential vaccine candidates. It also identifies host factors that may modify development of immune responses to vaccine candidates. A follow-on R01 is using these sera and epi data to identify new vaccine candidates.
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 R01 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.
A recent NIH-funded study in malaria further exemplifies the CIHR's trans-disciplinary approach to vaccine development. A cohort of individuals living in a P. falciparum holoendemic area of Kenya were enrolled and treated with anti-malarials and the heterogeneity in reinfection was measured over four months. Sera from the ten most resistant and ten least resistant individuals was used to screen a parasite cDNA library to identify parasite genes that encode proteins that are only recognized by the resistant individuals.
Three vaccine candidates were identified using this approach and an R01 application is being prepared to test the hypothesis that antibody and cytokine responses to these antigens will predict resistance to reinfection. This work culminated in a paper published in Science.
Center of Biomedical Research Excellence
The CIHR and the Institute for Immunology and Informatics (also known as ICubed) have partnered in a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) to address the challenge of new and emerging infectious diseases. The COBRE will advance the development of a multidisciplinary and trans-institutional research program in infectious disease immunology.
Researchers will participate in the transformational step of COBRE funding to:
- Establish an integrated research community to provide leadership in translational infectious diseases immunology research to the Rhode Island community
- Build infrastructure for immunology research through support for research cores in cellular analysis and sorting, Luminex high-throughput analysis and statistics
- Recruit promising junior investigators and provide mentoring by established NIH-funded researchers
- Support a multidisciplinary research program led by junior investigators in translational infectious diseases immunology