Joe Simon reports for Civil Beat that a global research team including University of Hawaii Manoa, University of Pittsburg and the University of Wisconsin have been awarded a five-year, $6.2 million grant to study how having HIV puts children at greater risk contracting and dying from tuberculosis. Funding has originated from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will fund experiments on primates to determine how those diseases affect one another and explore potential treatments.
University of Hawaii professor Dr. Lishomwa Ndhlovu, a professor of tropical medicine at the medical school, will investigate whether the same findings found in the primate studies are true for children living in Myanmar which has high ratees of HIV and TB. Professor Ndhlovu will collaborate with Yangon Children’s Hospital to evaluate blood samples from Myanmar.
The investigators seek to understand if the children living with HIV have the same T cell deficiencies and immune exhaustion markers as the laboratory animals do, and whether those markers correlate with TB coinfection rates.
Tina Shelton, director of communications for the John A. Burns School of Medicine, said Ndhlovu is already working in Myanmar with children who were born with HIV that now have tuberculosis. “That’s really a death sentence for most of these children,” she said.
Children with HIV are much more likely to develop tuberculosis than the general population. About 40,000 HIV-positive children die from TB each year, the release noted.
“Children with HIV are very vulnerable to TB, and anything we can do to try to better understand the pathology of the disease and potentially develop new interventions would make a great dent in the morbidity and mortality of the two diseases,” Ndhlovu said.