Agencies Fund Projects to Fight Infectious Diseases

The 2017 awards fund projects that "range in scope from meters to the entire globe and time scales from weeks to millennia," said Sam Scheiner, an EEID program officer in the NSF directorate. "This broad approach to attacking problems in infectious disease ecology and evolution will provide the basic knowledge that we will need when the next Ebola virus or Zika virus outbreak happens."

Preventing outbreaks and controlling the spread of infectious diseases requires knowledge about how pathogens move through populations, and the factors that can keep them contained. To that end,

The National Science Foundation, partnering with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, has provided more than $15 million through the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program to fund eight new projects that examine how pathogens interact with humans, animals, and plants.

NSF said in its Nov. 3 announcement that the EEID program "focuses on building multidisciplinary teams of scientists to bolster the research community's knowledge of pathogens and their diseases, which can decimate crops, ravage animal populations and harm humans."

"Increasingly, by combining the knowledge from different fields of science and integrating the work of multiple research teams, we're seeing connections between how environments change and how infectious diseases spread," said James Olds, who leads NSF's Biological Sciences Directorate. "The research supported through EEID will provide new foundations for creating the means to predict, control, and address these risks."

EEID-funded research addresses many issues, ranging from health care to food security. "This unique, multidisciplinary, and multi-agency research program brings together teams of investigators, often with vastly different expertise, to address priority disease ecology research," said Christine Jessup, program officer at the NIH Fogarty International Center's Division of International Training and Research. "These teams offer new approaches and insights to the field, with the goal of enhancing our ability to understand, predict, control, and prevent infectious diseases globally, including many emerging and re-emerging infectious disease threats."

According to the announcement, the 2017 awards fund projects that "range in scope from meters to the entire globe and time scales from weeks to millennia," said Sam Scheiner, an EEID program officer in the NSF directorate. "This broad approach to attacking problems in infectious disease ecology and evolution will provide the basic knowledge that we will need when the next Ebola virus or Zika virus outbreak happens." One project, for example, focuses on nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease, a growing concern worldwide because of its increasing number of cases and resistance to current treatments. The project is based at the National Jewish Health hospital of Denver; it will track and model the sources of the disease in Hawaii, the area of the United States where it is most prevalent.

Another project, based at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., will perform geospatial analyses of a class of tick-borne pathogens and their diseases along the U.S. East Coast and in South Africa.

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