(Feb. 9, 2012) -- A group of researchers in the UTSA South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) was granted a United States patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for its work on Francisella tularensis (F. tularensis), the bacterium that causes the human disease tularemia (or rabbit fever). While natural cases of tularemia are relatively rare, F. tularensis can be fatal when acquired through the lungs, and thus this organism is considered a potential biothreat agent.
UTSA researchers James Chambers, professor of biochemistry; Jieh-Juen Yu, research assistant professor; Neal Guentzel, professor of microbiology; Bernard Arulanandam, Jane and Roland Blumberg Professor in Biology and associate dean of research for scientific innovation; and Karl Klose, professor of microbiology and STCEID director; have studied F. tularensis for years. The team led by Arulanandam and Chambers found that Francisella degrades alkaline phosphatase (AP) during infection, and the distinctive degradation can be used as a diagnostic tool to reveal the presence of the bacteria.
"The South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases is focused on developing new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to reduce the impact of infectious organisms on the human population," said Klose. "Tularemia is a difficult disease to diagnose, due to its infrequent appearance in the clinical setting, yet rapid diagnosis may be critical for effective intervention during a bioterrorist event. This patent may lead to better diagnostics and possibly even novel therapeutics for tularemia."
In 2010, STCEID researchers also were awarded a patent for developing a tularemia vaccine composed of a live crippled Francisella bacterium unable to cause disease but able to induce protection against infection.
The STCEID focuses on research in molecular microbiology, immunology, medical mycology, virology, microbial genomics, vaccine development and biodefense, and studies the organisms that cause Valley Fever, Lyme disease, anthrax, cholera and other infectious diseases. The center also provides hands-on training to high school, undergraduate and graduate students who intend to pursue careers in science and technology.
Working with the Department of Biology in the UTSA College of Sciences, center faculty have established an undergraduate academic track in microbiology, a master's program in biology and biotechnology, and a Ph.D. program in cell and molecular biology. In 2011, the STCEID established a Center of Excellence in Infection Genomics with funding from the Department of Defense.
"The push to commercialize UTSA intellectual property for the benefit of the general public is one of the things that will help UTSA become a Tier One research institution," said Arulanandam. "Those discoveries lead to commercial licenses, income that will give our researchers and others across the university the opportunity to work on human health challenges facing today's society."
The UTSA Interactive Technology Experience Center camps are for curious youth who are interested in STEM and related topics. This week, campers will study environmental science, robotics and computer science.
UTSA Main Campus
The Curtis Vaughan Observatory at UTSA will be having open stargazing every Wednesday night during the month. This event is free and open to the public.
Curtis Vaughan Observatory, UTSA Main Campus
In four sessions of this weeklong day camp for 9 to 13-year-olds, campers will participate in indoor and outdoor activities while exploring ancient technologies from around the world and the new technologies archaeologists are using to discover them.
UTSA Center for Archaeological Research, Main Campus
Roadrunner readers dive into exciting topics during this literary adventure summer camp geared toward 6-10-year-olds, occurring Monday through Thursday for two weeks.
Buena Vista Building 3.350, Downtown Campus
This event seeks to uncover overlapping African and Indigenous cultural expressions as points of decolonial praxis within readings of Black, Chicana/o, Mexican American, and African American culture and history. It's free and open to the public.
Buena Vista Theater (BV
Experience a very different summer camp! The UTSA East Asia Institute is teaching kids Japanese through language, culture, art, crafts, music, cooking and more. For kids age 6-12. For more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Main Building (MB 1.126), Main Campus
7 to 12 year-olds will explore Mayan Culture in a three-day sessions, concluding at the Witte museum, where campers will have the chance to see the new "Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed" exhibit.
UTSA Center for Archaeological Research, Main Campus
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