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Current Projects

Finding Better Ways to Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Infectious Diseases in Children

Our investigators are studying pathogens involved in viral and fungal infections, improving the effectiveness of vaccines and drug therapies, and training the next generation of scientists seeking to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases in the pediatric population.

Vaccine Effectiveness

Enhanced Surveillance for New Vaccine Preventable Disease (Weinberg)

This project enhances the existing New Vaccine Surveillance Network (NSVN) site in Rochester, NY. Our recent focus has been on acute gastroenteritis in children, evaluating the burden of gastroenteritis in medical settings, measuring the effectiveness of rotavirus vaccine, and assessing the disease burden of norovirus and other viruses on children. We are extending these activities to include surveillance for acute respiratory infection in children, with a focus on influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68), and other vaccine- preventable or potentially vaccine-preventable viruses. We will measure influenza vaccine effectiveness in preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza infections among hospitalized children, and assess the inpatient burden of viral pathogens associated with acute respiratory infections, particularly influenza, RSV and EV-D68. Our main goal is to inform the nation about the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases and the impact of new vaccines and vaccine policies upon the healthcare and health outcomes of children.

Selective Priming of HA-specific CD4 T Cells in Influenza Heterosubtypic Immunity (Nayak)

This study evaluates a potentially innovative way to improve pandemic influenza vaccines that could independently provide protection from infection while enhancing post pandemic vaccine responses, allowing individuals to respond rapidly to lower doses of vaccine. This strategy could both prevent infections and allow dose sparing in post-pandemic vaccination, increasing the ability of limited vaccine stocks to protect the global population. The hope is to greatly decrease infection rates, morbidity, and mortality during the next influenza pandemic.

Pneumocystis

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP) is a serious and common infection in patients with weakened immune systems, especially those with HIV/AIDS. The hallmark of PcP is a tissue-damaging inflammatory response in the lungs. Death from PcP occurs in 10-20% of patients overall, and in more than half of patients who need to be put on a ventilator. Our research is designed to find better ways to treat PcP to address the decades-long failure to make major improvements in patient outcome. The goals of these projects are in direct response to the NIH mission statement of the need to generate basic science data that can be developed into translational studies designed to improve patient care.

Collaborative Projects

Respiratory Pathogens Research Center 

(Caserta Co PI)

The Respiratory Pathogens Research Center (RPRC) is devoted to developing new insights, tools, and strategies to decrease the global health burden caused by viruses and bacteria that attack the respiratory system.

  • AsPIRES (Assessing Predictors of Infant RSV Effects and Severity) - Identification of host responses to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infection and identification of factors associated with severe disease.
  • PRISM (Prematurity, Respiratory Outcomes, Immunes System, and Microbiome) - Impact of respiratory virus infections and bacterial microbiome shifts on lymphocyte (Lc) and respiratory function in infants born prematurely or full term.

Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO)

(Caserta Co PI)

The NIH has launched a new seven-year initiative called the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. ECHO will support multiple, synergistic, longitudinal studies using existing study populations, called cohorts, to investigate environmental exposures—including physical, chemical, biological, social, behavioral, natural and built environments—on child health and development. The studies focus on four key pediatric outcomes that have a high public health impact:

  • Upper and lower airway
  • Obesity
  • Pre-, peri-, and postnatal outcomes
  • Neurodevelopment

Read more about the EC​HO initiative:

Collaborative Antiviral Study Group (CASG) Projects 

(Caserta Sub PI)

  • Evaluating Prevention of Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Disease: Detection of Maternal Herpes Simplex Virus Shedding at Delivery. Evaluating the diagnostic accuracy of the GeneXpert real-time PCR test for detecting HSV DNA in the genital tract of women in active labor or in an STD clinic.
  • Acyclovir Pharmacokinetics, Viral Population Kinetics, and Potential Biomarkers of Disease Severity in Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus Infections. The aim is to determine the population pharmacokinetics of both high dose parenteral acyclovir and oral acyclovir in infants being treated for neonatal disease and receiving subsequent prophylaxis.
  • Investigation of Six Weeks of Oral Valganciclovir Therapy versus Placebo in Infants with Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection and Hearing Loss. Can a six week course of oral valganciclovir syrup stabilize the hearing of children with congenital CMV infection who present with hearing loss?
  • Evaluation of Pharmacokinetic, Pharmacodynamic, and Resistance to Intravenous Ganciclovir in Premature Infants. The goal is to define the pharmacokinetics of ganciclovir in premature infants (≤ 32 weeks 6 days gestational age at birth).