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Release: July 26, 2001

UI researcher receives nearly $2.6 million from the National Institutes of Health

IOWA CITY, Iowa – University of Iowa Health Care researcher Mary Wilson, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine and microbiology, has been awarded three grants totaling nearly $2.6 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue her investigation of visceral leishmaniasis.

Two five-year grants totaling $1.25 million each were received from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. A three-year, $96,000 grant was also received from the NIH Fogarty Foundation.

Wilson and collaborators from various institutions such as UCLA, Johns Hopkins University, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil and the UI will look at immune response, gene predisposition and familial clustering related to leishmaniasis.

"We will look at immune response to leishmania in mice in order to better understand how the disease progresses," Wilson said. "We also will try to identify genes that predispose individuals to the disease."

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease prevalent in many underdeveloped countries, transmitted to mammals through the bite of a sand fly. Humans often become infected after being bitten by a sand fly that has fed on another infected mammal, usually a dog. The domestic dog is thought to be the main reservoir for the disease in Brazil.

Months pass between the time the parasite enters the body and the onset of symptoms. The parasites transform from a free-form organism to an organism that lives inside the white blood cells, which can spread throughout internal tissues causing fever, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and anemia.

"We’ll use the funds to enhance our understanding of this disease and improve the condition of people at risk for the infection," Wilson said.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.