Michael Sciaudone, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at UNC, has won a 2021 postdoctoral fellowship in tropical infectious diseases from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund-American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (ASTMH). Three of the coveted fellowships are awarded nationally each year, funding research focused on low and low-middle income countries.
Sciaudone will use the two-year fellowship to continue his work on developing and evaluating faster and cheaper diagnostic tests for tuberculosis for low-resource clinics. As a 2021-2022 Fogarty fellow, he began working in Lima, Peru, with Natalie Bowman, MD, MPH, of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, aiming to develop novel DNA amplification tests for tuberculous meningitis, which HIV-infected individuals are at high risk of contracting, with a much higher mortality rate than the general population.
“I’m adapting the tests for use in actual clinical specimens, to diagnose tuberculous meningitis more rapidly and cheaply,” Sciaudone says. The disease is “a huge problem in Latin America, Africa, and India. The current diagnostics are too slow or too expensive for clinics in these regions. Part of the problem is a delay in diagnosis. When you have HIV, there could be so many other things causing the same symptoms.”
For the Burroughs Wellcome Fund-ASTMH fellowship, he proposed using the same DNA amplification technique to detect drug resistance “I plan on using the same DNA amplification technique and tweaking the test so that it can tell not only whether a patient has TB or not, but it can differentiate between drug-susceptible and multi-drug resistant TB strains,” Sciaudone says.
“I’m interested in diagnostics development and evaluation because it has immediate clinical applications and can make a real impact for patients,” Sciaudone says. He has known he was interested in infectious diseases and global health since his third year in medical school. He chose UNC because of the Institute’s “outstanding opportunities and great mentors” to pursue global health research and training.
“I am thrilled that Michael has won this award, and it couldn’t have been given to a more deserving candidate or project,” says Bowman, who won a Burroughs Wellcome Fund-ASTMH fellowship in 2012. “The diagnostic test he is developing has a lot of potential to accelerate the diagnosis of tuberculosis and drug resistance in the real world, at the point of care. The BWF/ASTMH award can make a big difference for global health researchers making the transition to a faculty position, as it did for me. The grant provides research support and protected time for research based in tropical countries, allowing young investigators to establish independence as physician-scientists. I look forward to mentoring Michael’s work in Peru. I know he will be an emerging young leader in the global health field.”
Researchers with UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases have a strong track record of winning the Burroughs Wellcome Fund-ASTMH fellowships. Recipients to date (three fellowships are awarded nationally) include:
2021: Michael Sciaudone
2019: Emily Ciccone
2018: Peyton Thompson
2016: Jonathan Parr
2012: Natalie Bowman
2011: Jessica Lin
2008: Joseph Tucker