Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine announced that it will receive funding through the Achieving Healthy Growth program within the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. This initiative was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to overcome persistent bottlenecks preventing the creation of new and better health solutions for the developing world. Charles H. King, MD, professor of international health and epidemiology and biostatistics, will pursue a research project entitled, "Enhancing Infant Immunity: Effect of Early Maternal Treatment for Parasitic Infections."
"Children in developing countries do not always respond appropriately to life-saving vaccines," King said, "and although several factors may be responsible for this poor vaccination response, chronic parasitic infections appear to play a significant role. We aim to determine how the effects of maternal parasite infections are linked to reduced vaccine efficacy and whether prenatal anti-parasite treatment can reverse this effect."
The goal of the Healthy Growth grant program is to discover the causes of faltering growth during the first 1,000 days of life and to identify effective and affordable interventions to promote healthy growth.
King's project is one of seven grants.
"Safeguarding the health of young children is one of the world's most urgent priorities and a core focus of our work," said Chris Wilson, director of Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We hope the suite of grants announced today will give us a deeper understanding of the reasons underlying stunted growth in children in the developing world and how this can be predicted to guide new approaches to improve the health and development of these children."
Parasitic infections are a group of debilitating chronic diseases affecting millions of people worldwide. They greatly impact early childhood development, lead to life-threatening disease and interfere with children's ability to respond to life-saving vaccines. Case Western Reserve's research program will determine how parasitic infections in pregnant mothers affect the developing fetal immune system, how this interference is mediated and whether earlier prenatal parasitic treatment can reverse the trend. These studies are crucial to facilitate current global vaccination programs, future vaccine trials and ongoing parasite treatment and control programs.