William Petri, MD, PhD, $2.4 Million Grant Renewal Marks 25 Years of Research Funding to Combat Diarrhea in Bangladesh

June 25, 2024 by

William Petri in Bangladesh in 1999.

Dr. Petri (back row, left) and Dr. Haque (back row, third from right) and field staff in the Dhaka community in 1999 when their research began.

William A. Petri MD, PhD, the Wade Hampton Frost Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, has been awarded a five-year, $2.4 million renewal of a long-running NIH grant that examines cryptosporidiosis, a water-borne parasitic disease that causes diarrhea in young children in Bangladesh. The new grant continues a 25-year-old collaboration between Dr. Petri, Rashidul Haque, MBBS, PhD, head of emerging infections division at an international health research institute based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Carol Gilchrist, PhD, associate professor of medicine in infectious diseases at UVA.

“The sun never sets on a collaboration that literally spans the Globe,” said Dr. Petri. “Every day while we sleep in Charlottesville, field workers are checking on the health of children in our cohort in Dhaka. The following morning while they sleep, we are delineating the mechanisms of their immunity to this parasite.”

Immunity to Cryptosporidium diarrhea develops by four years of age in children living in an area of high transmission intensity. After repeated infection, children develop immunity in part due to a unique repertoire and functional capacity of antibodies against the parasite because of Tfh cell activation, a discovery by Dana van Fossen, graduate student in Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology at UVA.

“The new project aims to provide insight into the human immune system response to intraepithelial parasitism and inform vaccine design,” stated Dr. Petri. “The goal is to prevent an estimated 7 million Cryptosporidium-attributable cases of diarrhea, which result in 200,000 deaths annually in children under the age of 2 years.”

Learn more about Dr. Petri’s lab and his research in Bangladesh. 

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