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K-State specialist in tick-borne pathogens receives $1.8 million grant
Date:12/7/2007

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Roman Ganta, a professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University, has been awarded a grant of $1,825,000 by the National Institutes of Health to figure out how to stop the tick-borne bacteria, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, from making animals and people sick.

This is the second grant of roughly the same size Ganta has received for this research.

Ehrlichia chaffeensis affects people and animals primarily in the southeastern and south central regions of the U.S. It is transmitted by the lone star tick. The resulting sickness, termed Ehrlichiosis, is hard to diagnose because its symptoms' similarities with other, more minor infections. Symptoms include headache, fever, malaise and muscle aches. For those with compromised immune systems, the bacterial infection could be fatal.

Though very few cases are reported -- around 1,500 since the Centers for Disease Control deemed it a disease of concern in the late 1980s -- Ganta estimates that as many as 50,000 people have actually contracted ehrlichia chaffeensis. Though relative to the nation's population that doesn't seem significant, the ensuing infection and symptoms can be serious, especially if untreated. As many as half of the patients diagnosed with ehrlichiosis require hospitalization.

This particular tick-borne pathogen is also unique because it circumvents the initial defenses of the immune system of the animal or human the tick bites, according to Ganta.

When bacteria enters the mammalian body the response is typically the same: the bacteria multiply and the immune system gears up, sending out its own organisms -- cells derived from white blood cells called macrophages -- to seek out and destroy the offender.

The average, healthy immune system can clear the body of most bacterial infections. But ehrlichia chaffeensis gets past that first line of defense, making the infection persist and the subsequent illness difficult
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Contact: Roman Ganta
rganta@k-state.edu
785-532-4612
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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