Jay K. Kolls, MD, Professor and Chairman of Genetics at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine, has been awarded $1.8 million over five years by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study whether antibodies that recognize carbohydrate (sugars) and proteins on the surface of the fungus that causes Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) can be used to prevent the infection.

Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia remains a serious complication in patients with weakened immune systems, such as those with AIDS, cancer, chronic conditions treated with corticosteroids, or organ transplant recipients.

Earlier research by Dr. Kolls found that carbohydrate antibodies are part of the natural response to the Pneumocystis fungus. Theses preliminary studies show that these antibodies participate in early clearance of the organism from the lung as well as regulate long term immune responses to the organism. The research team believes that this response might be harnessed to develop a vaccine to prevent or better treat infections from this fungus.

This funding will advance the research seeking not only to confirm that anti-carbohydrate antibodies are part of the natural response repertoire to the Pneumocystis fungus, but also that when combined with a potent protein antigen called Kex1, these antibodies can regulate direct killing of the fungus and confer immunity.

"Understanding these antibody responses will improve vaccine strategies for this human infection," notes Dr. Jay Kolls, who is also the principal investigator on the grant.

Source:
Leslie Capo
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

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