Ecology of Infectious Diseases Grants Awarded
The Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health (FIC/NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced funding for eight projects under the Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EID) program, the sixth year of funding in this multi-year effort.
The joint program supports research to understand the ecological and biological mechanisms that govern relationships between human-induced environmental changes and the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases. For example, the Buruli ulcer (Mycobacterium ulcerans infection) is a serious skin disease that is emerging rapidly in developing nations. Outbreaks are connected with slow-flowing aquatic habitats where communal bathing occurs. One study will examine what happens when aquatic environments are altered by settlement and forestry practices. The new data will help researchers understand if it is possible to control outbreaks of the disease by adjustments in environmental planning.
Interdisciplinary projects funded through the EID program will study how large-scale environmental events - such as habitat destruction, biological invasion and pollution - alter the risks of viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases emerging in humans and animals.
The potential benefits of the EID program include development of disease transmission theory; improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects; increased capacity to forecast outbreaks; and improved understanding of how diseases emerge and re-emerge according to Josh Rosenthal, EID program director at FIC/NIH.
"Previous research either looked primarily at diseases after they reached humans and the insects that are the immediate vector or focused only on the cycles in non-human animals," said Rosenthal. "The EID program links those different components to produce a comprehensive understanding of disease transmission."
The need for deeper understanding is driven by the increased pace of global change, society's greater global mobility and the threat of the deliberate release of disease organisms. By knowing how natural systems work, public health officials can recognize when an outbreak is unnatural. The recent outbreaks of Lyme disease, West Nile Virus and SARS show how little is known about the ecology of infectious diseases.
"The role of biological diversity and habitat structure in stabilizing communities of plants, animals and microorganisms has received a great deal of attention from ecologists in recent years," said Sam Scheiner, EID program director at NSF. "As a result, our capacity to analyze and model biocomplexity and ecological dynamics, and to evaluate spatial and temporal aspects of environmental change, have become increasingly sophisticated. However, few of these advances in the ecological sciences have yet contributed to biomedical research or to public health. That's where the joint NSF-NIH EID program comes in."
Over the past 20 years, unprecedented rates of change in non-human biodiversity have coincided with the emergence and re-emergence of numerous infectious diseases around the world. The coincidence of broad-scale environmental changes and the emergence of infectious diseases may point to underlying and predictable ecological relationships. Yet both basic and applied research in infectious disease ecology has been largely piecemeal, noted Scheiner.
This year's EID awards include studies of: .
the yellow dwarf virus, one of the most economically important diseases of grass crops worldwide, .
the newly introduced soybean rust disease, a threat to soybean fields, .
the plant pathogen responsible for widespread Sudden Oak Death in California, which also could affect mice, squirrels and lizards, .
a pathogen transmitted from a land-based host (the domestic cat) to threatened sea otters, .
the prevalence of microparasites in cats and rats in an urban environment, .
seasonal parasite transmission in mice, and .
a human skin disease called Buruli ulcer transmitted by water, and the fox tapeworm transmitted by dogs, both of which may be greatly affected by human changes to the landscape.
For more information on the EID program, and on this year's EID awards, please see:
- http://www.fic.nih.gov/programs/ecology.html .
The FIC, the international component of the NIH, addresses global health challenges through innovative and collaborative research and training programs and supports and advances the NIH mission through international partnerships. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - the nation's medical research agency - is comprised of 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.47 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 40,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,000 new funding awards. The NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Receive official NSF news electronically through the e-mail delivery and notification system, MyNSF (formerly the Custom News Service). To subscribe, visit www.nsf.gov/mynsf/ and fill in the information under "new users".
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov