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NIAID awards contracts to search for protein markers of disease
Date:10/9/2008

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded two five-year contracts to establish Clinical Proteomics Centers for Infectious Diseases and Biodefense. The contracts were awarded to the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Galveston, and to the Canadian firm Caprion Proteomics, Montreal. Researchers at the centers will analyze human blood and other tissue samples from completed or ongoing clinical studies with the aim of discovering proteins that could serve as biomarkers of infectious disease.

A biomarker is a measurable biological substance that acts as an indicator of either health or disease. One biomarker test now used by doctors is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test for prostate cancer screening. Elevated levels of PSA protein in the blood may signal the presence of cancerous cells in the prostate gland.

Scientists at the new NIAID-funded centers will look for proteins produced either by disease-causing agents or by the immune system in response to infection. "Identifying specific biomarkers that are present in infected people--but absent in uninfected people--would give researchers new leads in understanding how microbes cause disease and how the body reacts to those microbes," says Maureen Beanan, Ph.D., a program officer in NIAID's Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases. This, in turn, could guide development of diagnostics, therapies or vaccines, she adds.

The first two diseases to be studied at the new centers will be dengue fever, a viral illness spread by mosquitoes, and brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can cause severe influenza-like symptoms. Once discovered and characterized, any candidate biomarkers found by the centers' scientists will be made freely available to the research community at large for further development.

The centers also will encourage clinical infectious disease researchers from othe
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Contact: Anne A. Oplinger
aoplinger@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Source:Eurekalert

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