LSU vet professor receives $100K to study leprosy

LSU vet professor receives $100K to study leprosy

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A LSU professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine has been awarded a research grant to study leprosy.

Kevin Macaluso, MS, PhD, Mary Louise Martin Professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) has been awarded a Research to STOP Neglected Tropical Disease Transmission award for his research, entitled Role of arthropods in transmission of leprosy.

He is collaborating on this project with Richard Truman, MS, PhD, adjunct professor at the LSU SVM and chief for the Laboratory Research Brand with the National Hansen's Disease Program (NHDP), Marla Pena, DVM, PhD, NHDP research fellow, and Rahul Sharma, PhD, NHDP research fellow. The award is for $100,000 per year for two years.

Dr. Macaluso's research focuses on zoonotic transmission of leprosy from wild armadillos to patients with minimal or rare contact with these animals, as well as determining the ability of Amblyomma ticks, which commonly infect humans and armadillos in the south, to harbor the disease and transmit the pathogen between hosts.

"Our laboratory focuses on the transmission of arthropod-borne bacterial pathogens (via fleas and ticks). We have really advanced the field's understanding of the specific mechanisms by which emerging and re-emerging bacterial pathogens enter the blood-feeding arthropod vector and then are transmitted to hosts, including humans," said Dr. Macaluso. "We are one of many laboratories in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences that are testing apart the arthropod-pathogen-host interactions to identify novel targets for the prevention of pathogen transmission."

The NHDP is housed at LSU's SVM, so researchers will have the ability to collaborate often on their projects.

"Because our departments neighbor one another, we often discuss our research activities. One recent discussion concerned the possible role of arthropods in leprosy transmission, which lead to the initiation of this study," said Dr. Truman.

The program called for proposals in early 2016 and had 43 submissions. Only six proposals were awarded grants, including Dr. Macaluso's. The purpose of the program is to promote and fund research that will close existing knowledge gaps in the relationship between hosts, environment, and pathogens that cause conditions known as neglected tropical diseases. The program in jointly sponsored by Effect Hope and The Leprosy Mission.

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