SLU professor wins CDC grant to combat emerging infections, including West Nile

November 21, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- A Saint Louis University professor has received a $2.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study emerging viruses that could threaten the U.S. population.

Thomas Chambers, M.D., associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, will investigate over the next five years how "flaviviruses" are responsible for causing hemorrhagic fever, encephalitis and West Nile illness. His work could lead to new and improved vaccines to prevent these diseases.

Chambers said the grant fits into the federal biodefense program because several of the viruses in this family are pathogens that need further study. "These viruses are in the realm of 'emerging infections' that pose threats - even independent of any potential bioterrorism risk," he said.

The funding is part of a $27 million national grant program to enhance ongoing bioterrorism preparedness in the United States.

Chambers' research will study exactly how the yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis viruses cause disease in humans, information that is critical for vaccine development.

"Vaccines have been the most effective way to prevent disease caused by these viruses," Chambers said. "We want to be able to ensure the safety of these vaccines for human use."

This new grant program, developed by CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), emphasizes opportunities for research in innovative surveillances systems, enhanced detection systems, environmental sampling and pathogen detection systems and innovative approaches for prophylaxis and treatment.

These awards are part of HHS efforts to build and sustain a robust and long-term program for biodefense research. "The department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to supporting extramural research in biodefense and emerging infectious disease as we prepare to deal with any public health crisis, whether intentional attack with biological agents or a naturally occurring infectious disease," said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson.
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Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first M.D. degree west of the Mississippi River. Saint Louis University School of Medicine is a pioneer in geriatric medicine, organ transplantation, chronic disease prevention, cardiovascular disease, neurosciences and vaccine research, among others. The School of Medicine trains physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health services on a local, national and international level.

Saint Louis University

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