New $2.7 million NIH grant extends researcher's work on tick-borne disease
Friday, July 26, 2019
The research team for Roman Ganta, center, focuses on learning more about the tick-borne disease human monocytic ehrlichiosis caused by the pathogenEhrlichia chaffeensis. From left are Maria Dolores Juarez-Rodriguez, Chandramouli Kondethimmanahalli, Huitao Liu, Ascencion Torres-Escobar, Swetha Madesh, Deborah Jaworski, Arathy DS Nair and Ying Wang. Not pictured are Paidashe Hove and Xishuai Tong. | Download this photo.
MANHATTAN — The clock could be ticking for ticks. Roman Ganta, Kansas State University professor and director of the Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases in the College of Veterinary Medicine, recently secured a new grant of $2.7 million from the National Institutes of Health to continue his longtime work on tick-borne disease.
Previously, Ganta's research team has received grants from the NIH's Research Project Grant Program of $1.8 million, $1.825 million and $1.687 million in 2014, 2007 and 2002 respectively. The target of Ganta's research is human monocytic ehrlichiosis, which is caused by the tick-transmitted pathogenEhrlichia chaffeensis.
"Tick-borne diseases remain a growing public health concern for more than four decades in the U.S. and many other parts of the world," said Ganta, a professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology. "My team's prior studies have demonstrated that this pathogen, which also infects dogs, changes many of its expressed proteins as per its growth in a vertebrate host and in the tick host. We have also been active in studying the immune response required to protect a host from the disease. Substantial progress made during the prior five-year funded cycle is the key to landing another five years of support from the NIH."
Funded by the NIH since 2002, Ganta said his team's research has aided in the development of novel genetic methods useful in understanding pathogenesis and vaccine development. With an additional five years of support through the new grant, his tick-borne disease research program will mark 22 years of continuous NIH funding.
Ganta plans to continue investigating how Ehrlichia chaffeensis regulates its gene expression in response to host cell environmental signals and how it develops strategies to evade host response for its continued survival in vertebrate hosts and ticks.
"We have goals set for the next five years to investigate how the pathogen changes its protein expression by investigating gene regulation at the molecular level," Ganta said. "This mechanism defines the functional significance of proteins that have been identified as essential for E. chaffeensisgrowth in animals and ticks. We will perform numerous protein function disruption experiments aimed at understanding the critical determinants of the bacterium that causes the disease in people and animals from the bite of an infected lone star tick."
Moving forward, Ganta anticipates making substantial progress toward understanding how this and other tick-borne diseases are successful in causing persistent infections in animals and people. He said that his team is also focused on the development of effective vaccines to prevent the spread of human monocytic ehrlichiosis and other important tick-borne diseases impacting the health of people, companion animals and agricultural animals.