Preventing and treating infectious diseases represents an ongoing challenge. We live in balance with microbes and parasites, many of which are capable of causing disease. In addition, emerging infections are caused by antibiotic-resistant microbes or species with recently acquired pathogenic potential. Maintaining awareness and developing effective treatments of these infections require coordinated research efforts.
IGHID faculty researchers are tackling problems such as MRSA, drug-resistant gonnorhea, novel influenza viruses, hospital-acquired infections, hepatitis A and C, and more.
In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika an international public health emergency. Since that time, Zika has been identified in 62 countries and territories, including the United States. Most Zika cases worldwide have been transmitted by mosquitoes.
Zika is a flavivirus like dengue and yellow fever virus. Yet unlike other flaviviruses, Zika can be transmitted sexually and from mother to child. Zika has also been linked to a rare, neurological birth defect called microcephaly.
A group of UNC researchers are dedicated to studying the neurological effects of Zika in adults, as well as associated birth defects, including microcephaly. Researchers are also working diligently to develop diagnostic tools and a vaccine.
Clinical Research Management (ClinicalRM), a company based in Ohio with a robust clinical trial presence in Africa, approached UNC Drs. William Fischer and David Wohl about designing a study to test a treatment strategy in Liberia with funding secured from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The trial involved giving people diagnosed with Ebola convalescent plasma, or the blood from survivors, to fight the infection. It was the first trial implemented during an Ebola outbreak and began in December 2014 at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. This trial has since been stopped because the number of new cases of Ebola in Liberia has waned.
Wohl, Fischer and ClinicalRM have now turned their attention to the thousands of Ebola survivors. There has also been a confirmed case of a survivor of Ebola sexually transmitting the virus to a partner. With further funding from the Gates Foundation, they are investigating the ongoing clinical complaints from people who have recovered from Ebola, including muscular pain and ocular issues. The team is also focused on learning whether or not those who have no trace of the virus in their blood stream may still shed the virus elsewhere in the body.
Southeast Regional Center of Excellence in Biodefence and Emerging Infections (SERCEB)
SERCEB is a consortium of investigators at UNC, Duke University, and many other collaborating institutions throughout the southeast. The events of 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax attacks raised intense concern about biological weapons of mass destruction. This led to dedicated funds for biodefense, with emphasis on emerging pathogens and select agents that might be used in attacks on the U.S.
Contact: Fred Sparling
UNC Preparedness and Emergency Response Learning Center (PERLC)
The mission of PERLC is to help the public health workforce respond to bioterrorism and emerging health threats by assessing the competency of that workforce in core public health skills and bioterrorism preparedness, facilitating training, and carrying out applied research on emerging health issues.
Contact: Rachel A. Wilfert
Statewide Program for Infection Control and Epidemiology (SPICE)
SPICE is charged with investigating, preventing and controlling nosocomial infections in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other medical facilities in the state.
Contact: Bill Rutala
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