Clinician scientists within Infectious Diseases along with principal investigators in the Center for Vaccines and Immunity and the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis at The Research Institute are dedicated to improving care for children with infectious diseases. Laboratory and clinical-based research studies are informing new treatment strategies by revealing how bacteria and viruses affect children’s immune systems.
Featured Research Projects
Hepatitis C Infection, Vertical Transmission from Mother to Child During Childbirth
Investigators in the Center for Vaccines and Immunity at The Research Institute are focused on understanding the role of T-cell immunity in the vertical transmission of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Vertical transmission of HCV, passage from mother to child during pregnancy or birth, occurs in approximately five percent of pregnancies of HCV-infected mothers and is now the leading route of infection in children.
Although T-cell immunity is known to be critical for control of acute infection in adults and animal models of HCV, the roles of maternal and infant T-cell responses in preventing vertical transmission and reasons for their failure remain unknown. To address these issues scientists are studying how T-cells respond to HCV antigens in a group of HCV-infected pregnant women and their infants.
Learn more about this project’s lead investigator, Jonathan “Rob” Honegger, MD.
Understanding and Protecting Against Middle Ear Infections
Investigators in the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis at The Research Institute are studying otitis media (middle ear infection), specifically how respiratory tract viruses predispose the middle ear to invasion by any of the three bacteria most often responsible for middle ear infections.
The research team is also investigating how a host’s immune system responds to this infection, especially infection caused by the bacterium nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae, and how the microbes defend themselves against the immune system.
Using multiple approaches including an animal model of viral-bacterial superinfection, scientists are attempting to identify potential molecular targets for the design, development and pre-clinical testing of vaccine candidates. The long-term goal is to develop novel methods to treat or prevent otitis media.
Global Studies to Develop New Treatments for RSV
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection is the leading cause of hospitalization in infants in the United States; however therapeutic options are limited and no vaccine is yet available. To gain insight in to how RSV develops, investigators in the Center for Vaccines and Immunity at The Research Institute have designed a global, multidisciplinary approach, performing studies in the mouse model of RSV and in children with respiratory viral infections. In parallel, scientists perform detailed studies on the virus itself and are characterizing the host differences in disease severity. Gene expression analyses has allowed the team to better understand the mechanisms of the disease, and also assess disease severity, responses to therapy and eventually predict outcomes in children with RSV, influenza or rhinovirus infections among others.