UGA receives $18.7 million Gates Foundation grant to improve control of schistosomiasis

December 18, 2008

Athens, Ga. - The University of Georgia Research Foundation has received a five-year, $18.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to research ways to reduce morbidity from schistosomiasis in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. Researchers will develop and evaluate research-based approaches and diagnostic tools to identify, control and even eliminate schistosomiasis where feasible.

Dan Colley, director of UGA's Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, is principal investigator for the project, which will provide critical tools and an evidence base for decisions about controlling schistosomiasis. Colley, a microbiologist and immunologist in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has researched the disease for nearly 40 years.

"This grant significantly bolsters the University of Georgia's growing strength in public health and medical research," said UGA President Michael F. Adams. "It holds promise for great progress in eliminating a disease that causes suffering and economic hardship for millions around the world."

This is the largest grant UGA has received from the Gates Foundation, the first for medical research and the third-largest grant in UGA history.

The project grew out of a consensus research agenda developed in 2007 with broad input from the schistosomiasis research and control community. It focuses on operational research, and its overall goal is to answer key strategic questions about controlling schistosomiasis to ensure that future programs operate with increased efficacy, cost-effectiveness and sustainability.

"This grant will support and advance pioneering work on schistosomiasis under the technical guidance of Dan Colley," said UGA Vice-President for Research David Lee. "With his international leadership, this award will make great strides in addressing the widespread, debilitating impact of this infection. The University community is proud of Colley and others at the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases who work tirelessly to improve health conditions in the developing world."

Secondary goals for the project are to integrate global schistosomiasis control efforts with other programs, monitor the effectiveness of current treatments, develop survey and diagnostic tools and overcome barriers that currently prevent effective control.

Caused by several species of flatworms of the genus Schistosoma, this neglected tropical disease affects some 200 million people worldwide. It is most common in Africa, and to a lesser extent in Asia and South America. It is transmitted through a species of freshwater snails, which become infected through contaminated water and then multiply and release infected worms into the water. The worms enter through the skin as their human hosts wash clothes, swim, or fish.

While it has a relatively low mortality rate, schistosomiasis can damage internal organs and impair physical and cognitive development in children. Symptoms of infection include abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, pulmonary hypertension and often an enlarged liver and spleen. The worms can live in the blood vessels of people for up to 40 years, leading to chronic illness.

"Mass drug control programs in several African countries already use the drug praziquantel to reduce mortality from schistosomiasis and to help stem the suffering," said Dan Colley, principal investigator on the grant and director of UGA's Center for Tropical and Global Emerging Diseases. "And while controlling schistosomiasis is a World Health Organization global priority, most endemic countries still lack adequate control programs, and the sustainability of existing programs is tenuous."

Colley will oversee a management team based at the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, University of Georgia, but the consortium will involve partners from around the world. Much of the research will be carried out through subgrants to investigators at several federal, state and private institutions and laboratories and field sites in North America, South America, Europe and Africa.
Link to UGA's Center for Tropical and Emerging Tropical Diseases:

University of Georgia

Related Schistosomiasis Articles from Brightsurf:

Finding the Achilles' heel of a killer parasite
Two studies led by UT Southwestern researchers shed light on the biology and potential vulnerabilities of schistosomes -- parasitic flatworms that cause the little-known tropical disease schistosomiasis.

Gastrointestinal innovation holds potential for treating variety of conditions
Proof-of-concept studies in models of lactose intolerance, diabetes and infectious disease demonstrate potential applications.

Pesticides speed the spread of deadly waterborne pathogens
Widespread use of pesticides can speed the transmission of the debilitating disease schistosomiasis, while also upsetting the ecological balances in aquatic environments that prevent infections, finds a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

Pesticides increase the risk of schistosomiasis, a tropical disease
Schistosomiasis is a severe infectious disease caused by parasitic worms.

Satellite, drone photos could help predict infections of a widespread tropical disease
An international team has discovered a cheap and efficient way to identify transmission hotspots for schistosomiasis.

Parasite paralysis: A new way to fight schistosomiasis?
Scientists have isolated a natural chemical that acts as a potent kryptonite against parasitic worms that burrow through human skin and cause devastating health problems.

Study shows interactions between bacteria and parasites
A team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has completed the first study of the effects of a simultaneous infection with blood flukes (schistosomes) and the bacterium Helicobacter pylori -- a fairly common occurrence in some parts of the world.

Super shrimp designed at Ben-Gurion University could increase yield and prevent disease
''We were able to achieve the monosex population without the use of hormones or genetic modifications and thus address two major agricultural considerations: monosex populations and ecological concerns,'' says Levy.

Poverty as disease trap
The realities of subsistence living in a region of Senegal hard hit by schistosomiasis make reinfection likely, despite mass drug administration.

How fat prawns can save lives
New research led by University of California, Berkeley, scientists provides a roadmap for how entrepreneurs can harness freshwater prawns' voracious appetite for snails to reduce the transmission of schistosomiasis-causing parasites while still making a profit selling the tasty animals as food.

Read More: Schistosomiasis News and Schistosomiasis Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to