Seed Grants Awarded to Fuel Promising New Infectious Disease Research (2021)
(Department of Developmental and Cell Biology)
(Department of Chemistry)
(UCI Program in Public Health)
Using real-time, non-invasive measurements of infection dynamics to uncover drivers of survival
Individuals vary greatly in their innate response to infection. This
variation is due to both genetic and non-genetic factors, including
life history, the environment, and random fluctuations in infection
progression. Separating genetic factors from the random fluctuations inherent to infection is challenging because infection dynamics and host responses are typically measured at single time points using invasive methods that kill the animal. Without longitudinal measurements of infection dynamics in individual animals, we cannot definitively relate early events in infection with the ultimate outcome, limiting our ability to answer the question of why some individuals succumb to an infection while others survive. In our project, we aim to optimize a set of bioluminescence imaging (BLI) tools for real-time monitoring of microbial load and host responses in hundreds of individual animals using the Drosophila model system. The methods we develop will enable a more thorough dissection of the factors that drive infection response and outcome.
Spatio-temporal malaria transmission hotspots and epidemiological patterns.
Dr. Veronica Berrocal (UCI Department of Statistics)
Brook Jeang (UCI Program in Public Health)
Global reductions in malaria cases and fatalities have plateaued since 2015, particularly in the highest-burden countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Funding for malaria has similarly stagnated since 2010, and the emergence of COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of not only global health systems but also the progress in malaria control that has been made over the past two decades. This study addresses the pressing need for enhanced understanding of heterogeneities and complex malaria transmission dynamics in settings of declining malaria transmission. This project uses field-collected parasite samples, high-throughput DNA sequencing, population genetic analysis, and remotely-sensed and gridded data to develop predictive models to identify hotspots of malaria transmission and parasite sources in Ethiopia. These data and forecasts will be shared with the Ethiopia Ministry of Health to inform programmatic decision-making.
Dr. Shruti Gohil MD MPH, assistant professor of infectious disease at UC Irvine's School of Medicine and IDSI Co-Director, has three new studies. Click on the link to read more about her new studies.
Project 1: Use of signature COVID-19 features to identify earliest cases in the US and assess impact on antibiotic use, length of stay, and ICU transfer, length of stay, readmission, and death.
Project 2: Evaluation of COVID-19 among healthcare workers (HCW) and the estimated attribution to community, patient, or co-worker sources, including the impact of delayed recognition of COVID-19 on HCW infections.
Project 3: Assessment of the unintended consequences of an “abundance of caution” rationale to avoid healthcare worker COVID exposure on clinical decision-making and quality of patient care.
Dr. Shruti Gohil is collaborating on a new project to educate Orange County nursing homes on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Their goals include online education around hand hygiene, PPE, and disaster preparedness. Click on the link for more information.
Monitoring COVID-19 transmission at UC Irvine: Longitudinal immuno-prevalence surveillance among UCI students
Specific aims of this project are:
1) to determine the prevalence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection among UCI students
2) to estimate the risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection over time
3) to refine existing mathematical models of COVID-19 transmission with age-specific estimates of asymptomatic infections among young adults.
This study aims to estimate the prevalence of ongoing and resolved subclinical, asymptomatic SARS-CoV2 infections in high-risk healthcare providers in the emergency department (ED) and intensive critical care unit (ICU) at UCI Medical Center (UCIMC). Completion of the proposed studies will provide critical information for developing and refining interventions to protect high-risk HCPs and informing prediction models for the transmission of SARS-CoV2.
IDSI Director Sanghyuk Shin and Co-Director Vladimir Minin are leading a five-year NIH R01-funded study to understand how TB spreads in populations affected by HIV. Advanced genetic techniques will be used to identify within-host Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (Mtbc) heterogeneity among TB patients in Botswana. This data will then be integrated with epidemiological and spatial data to help us track how TB spreads. This project is expected to produce groundbreaking information for identifying TB transmission “hotspots”, which can guide public health interventions to prevent the transmission of this deadly global health threat.
Nontuberculous mycobacterium Infection
Role of the microbiome and lung immunity in Nontuberculous mycobacterium infection. We are exposed to Nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) everyday. For otherwise healthy adults this exposure does not result in any type of infection or harm. However, in the elderly NTM can cause a debilitating pulmonary infection that often requires lifelong multi-drug antibiotic therapy to treat. Although the association between pulmonary NTM infection and age is striking, the mechanisms underlying this dramatic age-related increase in susceptibility are poorly understood. Aging is known to cause changes in our immune system and our microbiome. However, very little is known about how aging changes these factors in our lungs and why this results in NTM infection. In this study, we aim to understand how the lung immune and microbial environment change with age. Additionally, we will profile the immune and microbial response to NTM infection to better understand how age-related defects lead to disease. This study will broaden our understanding of why respiratory infections are more prevalent and severe in the elderly and inform future treatment strategies for NTM infections.
Spatio-temporal analysis of malaria risk related to water resources development – linking field and remote sensed data.
To combat food insecurity and meet increasing water demands under rapid population growth, water resource development projects are anticipated to rapidly increase in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, environmental change related to these projects may have a negative effect on malaria by increasing mosquito vector breeding site availability. Thus, the goal of this project is to improve our understanding of how dams and reservoir water management influence mosquito ecology and how this translates to intensified malaria transmission around water development schemes. The study will help identify landscape factors associated with hotspots of malaria transmission in dam areas using landscape genetics. The study also aims to identify water management strategies for malaria control around dams. The findings from this study will help devise malaria intervention strategies to reduce malaria around dams in Africa.