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San Antonio Area Foundation grant aids chlamydia research

By Christi Fish
Public Affairs Specialist

(June 17, 2009)--Ashlesh Murthy, the newest research assistant professor in the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) at UTSA, has received a $32,000 grant from the Semp Russ Foundation of the San Antonio Area Foundation to study the role of CD8-positive T-cells in chlamydia infections. Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, chlamydia is the nation's most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease.

Nearly 2.8 million new chlamydia cases are reported each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the disease is most prevalent among teen girls. The infection rate in Texas is slightly higher than the national average. Nearly 17 percent of Texas females in the 15-19 age group test positive for the infection.

However, experts believe even more chlamydia cases exist than are reported, because the disease generally progresses without exhibiting noticeable symptoms. Left untreated, chlamydia infections can do severe damage in women, causing ectopic pregnancies, pelvic inflammatory disease and even infertility. In men, complications can occur but are generally less severe.

Murthy, a practicing physician from India, entered the Ph.D. program in cellular and molecular biology (CMB) at UTSA in 2002. Working alongside Bernard Arulanandam, professor of microbiology and immunology in the UTSA Department of Biology, Murthy has conducted significant chlamydia research, resulting in findings that have been presented both nationally and internationally by UTSA's chlamydia team.

In 2006, Murthy earned his Ph.D., the first CMB Ph.D. degree awarded by the university. Thereafter, he completed two years of post-doctoral research in UTSA's infectious disease center. Recently, he joined the UTSA Department of Biology as a research assistant professor. The San Antonio Area Foundation award is Murthy's first funding as principal investigator.

"We know that CD8-positive T-cells respond to chlamydia infection, but it is not clear how they affect the infection process and disease development," said Murthy, the study's principal investigator. "The grant from the San Antonio Area Foundation will help us explore the role of these cells and obtain better insights."

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The San Antonio Area Foundation aspires to significantly enhance the quality of life of our community by providing outstanding service to donors, producing significant asset growth, strengthening community collaboration and managing an exemplary grants program. A publicly supported philanthropic institution, SAAF is governed by a board of private citizens chosen for their knowledge of and involvement in the community. For almost 45 years, it has successfully administered funds from individuals, agencies, corporations and others who contribute or bequeath assets for the betterment of the community.

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