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Tulane, Duke & North Carolina State Universities announce collaboration on Bartonella Research Consortium

Pierre St-Jean

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NEW ORLEANS, LA — Tulane University, Duke University, and North Carolina State University have announced that they will collaborate on an initiative to develop a treatment for bartonelloses, a spectrum of vector-borne diseases that can cause debilitating symptoms. The initiative will be valued at $4.8 million in three years to come, which The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation fund aided. It will also establish the Bartonella Research Consortium, to develop a novel treatment for bartonelloses.

Bartonella is a zoonotic, stealth bacterial pathogen that was unknown to infect animals or humans before the HIV epidemic when patients with low immune conditions began showing symptoms of bartonellosis. It is a self-limiting disease that can cause cardiovascular and rheumatological symptoms.

The principal investigators support a collaborative approach to the study of complex, poorly understood infectious diseases. Working together to prevent and treat Bartonella infections will provide patient-relevant solutions that improve both animal and human health. On the other side, targeted antimicrobial strategies to eliminate long-standing Bartonella infections will dramatically improve patient outcomes.

Bartonella symptoms overlap with those of other vector-borne organisms such as Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. In some instances, patients have been infected with Bartonella and Borrelia burgdorferi infections, which can cause an increase in symptoms.

As often seen in Lyme disease patients, people with bartonelloses often develop chronic symptoms despite prior antibiotic therapy. Thus, there is a need for drugs specific to this bacteria.

Over forty Bartonella species are known, and at least seventeen are associated with a spectrum of disease symptoms. Although Bartonella remains neglected in human and veterinary medicine, more recent evidence supports an essential role for these bacteria in various diseases.

The research's funding combines the strengths of research laboratories at Duke University, North Carolina State University and Tulane University. Principal investigators of this project are Drs. Edward B. Breitschwerdt, Monica E. Embers, Timothy A Haystead and Ricardo G. Maggi.

During the next three and a half years, these established investigators and their highly skilled research teams will develop a novel drug to treat bartonelloses.

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