Providence, R.I. – July 29, 2013 – University of Rhode Island Research Professor Dr. Alan Rothman and colleagues in the Institute for Immunology and Informatics (iCubed) have been awarded $11.4 million from the National Institutes of Health for ongoing research on dengue virus, a potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease. The multi-faceted project is titled “Flavivirus Infections: Pathogenesis and Prevention.

Dengue_mosquitoThe funding will be dedicated to a combination of field studies and laboratory research. The NIH-funded grant was initially awarded in 1994 with Rothman taking over as program director in 2008. This latest award will provide funding for an additional five years of research.

Rothman is the head of the Laboratory of Viral Immunity and Pathogenesis at URI’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics on the Providence campus. He has been involved in research on immunity and pathogenesis of viral diseases in humans for over 20 years.  Rothman’s research involves both clinical and basic research studies on pathogenesis and immunity of emerging and re-emerging viral infections.

Dengue is a disease caused by dengue virus, a member of the flavivirus family which includes other mosquito-borne viruses like West Nile virus. Dengue is a significant global public health burden, particularly in resource-poor countries of tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Although the death rate from dengue is less than one percent globally, Rothman points to the high number of new infections each year that need to be addressed with further research.

“There are hundreds of millions of infections per year and it’s estimated around 20,000 deaths. It is a big impact globally and so there’s a need both for people living in endemic countries as well as for travelers to improve approaches to identify, treat and prevent,” Rothman said.

Field studies for the project will be conducted by collaborators in Thailand and the Philippines who will look at natural dengue virus transmission in humans. This research will also include collaboration with a phase three vaccine trial. Laboratory research will take place in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Collaborators include faculty from several American universities including URI, Brown, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the State University of New York at Buffalo and Upstate Medical University. The United States Army’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Bangkok, Thailand, and a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company will also participate in the project.

Working alongside Rothman on the project in Rhode Island will be URI Assistant Research Professor Dr. Carey Medin and Dr. Jennifer Friedman of Rhode Island Hospital.