The World Health Organization lists nearly 40 diseases existing today that were unknown almost a generation ago. Some blame the emergence of new infections on overuse of antibiotics, while others blame “super bugs” and even enhanced global travel. But the fact remains, doctors are finding it harder to control certain types of infections.
New York Medical College has stepped up to play a leading role in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, supported by funding from the NIH and other sources, and driven by the cooperative efforts and expertise found in all three schools.
Not to be overlooked is influenza, which periodically raises the specter of the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. Vaccine shortages in recent years, as well as growing concerns about anti-viral drug resistance, have scientists industriously working to develop components of the vaccine that must be newly developed each year for use in the U.S. and abroad.
A key investigator in the development of effective influenza vaccine is Doris L. Bucher, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology. Each year her lab takes flu strains sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), grows them in culture and produces high-growth vaccine strains by shuffling the gene pieces in a process called reassortment. The reassortant viruses are then sent to pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the vaccines. This year, the strain created by Dr. Bucher’s lab—NYMC X-175C—comprises the H3N2 component that will go into the influenza vaccine, with 145 million doses destined for the U.S.
Dana G. Mordue Ph.D., assistant professor, studies the model intracellular protozoa Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Twenty percent of the U.S. population have been infected and carry the cyst form of the parasite in tissues including the brain, central nervous system and smooth muscle, but infection is usually asymptomatic unless the individual is immune compromised. That’s why it was one of the leading causes of death and blindness for patients with AIDS prior to retroviral therapy. Dr. Mordue’s group is investigating novel molecular mechanisms used by this intracellular pathogen to subvert the host innate immune response and to adapt to changes in the microenvironment during infection. The team utilizes genetic and global microarray-based approaches to identify parasite genes that are differentially regulated by the host’s innate immune response during infection.
Snapshot: Public Health and Infectious Disease
The New York Medical College School of Health Sciences and Practice continues to cultivate a growing record of public service in combating infectious diseases.
In New York’s Hudson Valley, for example, county health departments play a major role in detecting disease early and containing infectious before they are allowed to spread widely. Recent disease control successes have included control of mumps and pertussis (whooping cough), cryptosporidium, norovirus, and an array of food-borne and water-borne infectious agents.
For a population that seems to face a new or newly diagnosed infectious disease on a regular basis, it should be comforting to know that someone is watching the store. Indeed, seven health commissioners or directors from nearby counties are faculty members and nine serve on the school’s Public Health Practice Council.