VIDD researchers receive $14.5M NIH grant for STI research

Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

VIDD researchers receive $14.5M NIH grant for STI research

VIDD Members Drs. David Fredricks, Anna Wald and Jim Hughes, Assistant Member Dr. Josh Schiffer and Affiliate Investigator Dr. Christine Johnston, together with UW colleagues, recently received a 5-year, $14.5M NIH grant to establish the Sexually Transmitted Infections Cooperative Research Center (STI-CRC). The goal of the STI-CRC is to investigate complex interactions between the human genital microbiome and syndromes and pathogens that contribute to STI-related morbidity. This multidisciplinary consortium will elucidate how environmental factors and interspecies interactions influence vaginal bacterial dynamics.

Genital lesion

The grant, for which Wald is co-director, will fund a series of elegant studies that combine genital microbiome sequencing with immunological characterization and mathematical modeling.

“The role of the microbiome core in VIDD is to use cultivation-independent molecular tools to study the genital tract microbiota and its relationship with STI outcomes,” said Fredricks.

Wald is medical director of the Viral Disease Clinic, a specialty clinic established 35 years ago dedicated to a wide range of clinical studies on genital HSV-2 infection, including resolution frequency, vaccine efficacy and technology development. Fredricks is a world renowned leader in identifying bacterial microbiota, specifically with respect to bacterial vaginosis, and the collaboration between he and the herpes virology group will undoubtedly unearth microbial interaction pathways heretofore completely unexplored; an area enjoying considerable current public health concern but a dearth of hard data.

“We are interested in determining if particular genital tract bacterial populations are associated with increased risk of acquiring or transmitting STIs,” Fredricks said. “We will also study the role of novel genital tract bacteria in STI syndromes such as idiopathic non-gonococcal urethritis in men and bacterial vaginosis in women.”  

The interdisciplinary nature of VIDD, as well as Seattle’s large and diverse STI clinical and biomedical community, provides an ideal research setting to elucidate the relationships between the genital microbiome, local immunity and interactions with STI pathogens to identify novel pathways to target for management and prevention of these STIs.

UW collaborators include Principal Investigator Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, professor, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine; Developmental Program Leader Sheila Lukehart, professor of Medicine and Global Health; and Lisa Manhart, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology, adjunct associate professor, Department of Global Health.

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