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UCSF teams tackle childhood mortality and river blindness
Date:1/10/2013

Two UCSF teams have received a total of $16 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study new ways to significantly reduce childhood mortality and disease in developing nations.

An international team led by Thomas M. Lietman, MD, associate director of the UCSF Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology, received $12 million for a multi-year trial to study the effectiveness of mass oral administration of the antibiotic azithromycin in reducing childhood mortality in Niger, Tanzania and Malawi three nations with severe childhood mortality rates.

A second team, led by James H. McKerrow, MD, PhD, professor of pathology and pharmaceutical chemistry, received $4.3 million to identify and develop a drug that kills the parasitic roundworms known as filiariae that cause river blindness, the leading cause of blindness in parts of West Africa.

If successfully developed, the same drug will have a high probability of killing the closely related parasite that causes lymphatic filariasis, or elephantiasis, a crippling and disfiguring disease that affects millions of people in Africa, Asia, the Indian subcontinent and South America.

Expanding Prevention of Child Mortality

Lietman's project is based on an earlier study in which communities in Ethiopia that received mass doses of azithromycin to treat trachoma a strain of chlamydia that causes blindness experienced an overall reduction in childhood mortality from all causes.

"Now we need to see whether that effect can be replicated in areas that don't have a lot of trachoma," said Lietman, a UCSF professor in the departments of Ophthalmology and Epidemiology & Biostatistics. "If we want to make a public health difference, we have to show that we can reduce childhood mortality in areas that are not otherwise receiving mass antibiotics."

Community-wide antibiotic administration is common in African nations where trachoma is us
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Contact: Kristen Bole
kristen.bole@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert  

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