Infectious Diseases- A Thing Of The Past?

by Tanya Thomas on Jul 26 2008 6:06 PM

Infectious diseases could soon morph into an old grandmother’s tale if certain studies prove successful. The Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine has formed a new institute to study how microbes and the human immune system interact thus finding ways to diagnose, cure and prevent infectious diseases.

Researchers at the Infectious Disease & Immunology Institute focus on bacterial and viral diseases such as HIV, influenza and hepatitis C, which can give rise to global epidemics. Researchers will also explore the link between cancer and viruses and bacteria, as well as the relationship between animal and human viruses.

''You have clinicians who do clinical work and scientists who do basic research, and it's very easy for them to not talk to each other,'' said institute co-director Katherine Knight, Ph.D., department of microbiology and immunology, Stritch School of Medicine. ''By bringing the two together, we will be able to take the results from research straight from the lab to the clinic.''

The institute has a number of nationally known, board-certified clinical scientists and physicians who are fully funded and committed to research, generating results that will enhance patient care and to teaching the next generation of medical professionals and researchers, said Dr. David W. Hecht, professor, infectious disease division, Stritch School of Medicine.

''It's a very diverse, interdisciplinary group,'' Knight said, ''but all are focused on immunology and infectious disease, which are intimately related because immunology is about avoiding infectious diseases.''

Faculty and researchers are also drawn from the Division of Infectious Diseases, The Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Oncology Institute, Cardiovascular Institute and the Neuroscience Institute at the Stritch School of Medicine.

''Having that type of synergy is important for the overall integration of our research and patient-care efforts within the Loyola system,'' Hecht said.

The Infectious Disease & Immunology Institute is composed of three divisions, each organized around a group of basic and clinician scientists researching similar problems:

  • Division 1– Microbial Infections, Pathogenesis and Antimicrobial Resistance, which is researching community-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), clostridium difficile (C-diff) and other antibiotic-resistant organisms that are mostly hospital-associated infections.
  • Division 2 – Immunobiology of Transplantation, Inflammation and Aging, which is investigating ways to grow both blood stem cells and immune cells from cord blood stem cells outside the body. It is also researching cures for chronic rejection in lung transplants, a condition that can shave months and years from a transplant patient's life expectancy.
Division 3 – Infectious Agents: Structure Function and Pathogenesis, which is concerned about emerging infections such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and also MRSA.