A $375,000 grant from the Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation was awarded to Subramanian Dhandayuthapani, PhD, an associate professor in the Center of Emphasis in Infectious Diseases at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM), to develop genetically altered vaccines against tuberculosis (TB).
“Cross-border infectious disease transmission is a significant public health and border security concern because residents of the Paso del Norte Region are medically underserved, economically disadvantaged, and geographically isolated,” said Dr. Dhandayuthapani. “Infectious diseases can be particularly difficult to deal with in areas where low health literacy and crowding may compound the spread of disease.”
TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and kills approximately 1.5 million people annually worldwide. Although TB is more common in countries lacking resources such as Africa and Asia, the U.S. has significant numbers of TB cases.
“The Texas Department of State Health Services revealed in 2012 that Hispanics are affected most by TB,” says Dhandayuthapani. “This ethnic group is the dominant population in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border and the increased TB in this population may be due to their exposure to the Mexican population on either side of the border.”
The emergence of a drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain poses serious issues because it is difficult to treat with existing drugs.
“BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Gurein) is the only available vaccine against TB, but it fails to prevent adult pulmonary TB - the most prevalent form of TB,” says Dhandayuthapani. “Therefore, development of alternate vaccines against TB is greatly needed.”
Dhandayuthapani has actively pursued research to generate effective vaccines against TB using genetic and recombinant methods in collaboration with Manjunath Swamy, MD, and Premlata Shankar, MD, professors and co-directors of the Center of Emphasis in Infectious Diseases at TTUHSC El Paso.
Source: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso