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For the past 10 years, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has supported better health and health care for Canadians. As the Government of Canada's health research investment agency, CIHR enables the creation of evidence-based knowledge and its transformation into improved treatments, prevention and diagnoses, new products and services, and a stronger, patient-oriented health-care system. Composed of 13 internationally recognized Institutes, CIHR supports more than 13,600 health researchers and trainees across Canada. Through CIHR, the Government of Canada invested approximately $257.8 million in 2009–10 in infection- and immunity-related research.
- Food allergies affect 7.5% of the Canadian population, representing almost 2 million people.1
- HIV prevalence appears to be on the decline in Africa, but rates are still far higher than in other regions. Swaziland has the world's highest rate: 26% of its population aged 15 to 49 is HIV positive.2
- The 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, which began in April in Mexico City, killed 17,700 people worldwide.3
- Every second of every day, someone in the world is newly infected with the tuberculosis (TB) bacilli. Overall, one-third of the world's population is currently infected, and about 5–10% of these individuals will become infectious or develop TB at some point in their lifetime.4
- Allergen: Breakthrough Canadian Allergy Prevalence Data Published
- Population Reference Bureau: World Population Data Sheet
- The Associated Press: 1 year after H1N1, Mexicans question response
- World Health Organization: Media Centre, Tuberculosis
McGill team finds way to spot deadly parasitic disease
A team at the Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre has developed a new diagnostic approach in the fight against Chagas disease, a parasitic infection usually transmitted through the bite of an infected insect. The disease kills 50,000 people in South America alone each year. Many infected people remain without symptoms for years, making diagnosis difficult. As the disease progresses unseen, however, serious chronic symptoms such as heart problems and malformation of the intestines can develop. The researchers, led by Dr. Momar Ndao, validated a screening technique that uses mass spectrometry technology to identify biomarkers for interaction between the affected person and the parasite. Findings from the study, made possible by grants from CIHR and McGill, were published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
Can the common chicken pox vaccine help eradicate HIV and AIDS?
Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto are launching a nonhuman primate trial to test the efficacy of piggybacking a potential AIDS vaccine on the widely used vaccine for the chicken pox virus, Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). For the preclinical stage, the trial involves a hybrid vaccine based on chicken pox and the monkey version of the AIDS virus, called Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). Chicken pox vaccine can reactivate silently, and this persistence is hoped to provide a key to long-lasting immunity against HIV. "Since the VZV vaccine is already licensed in humans and shown safe, success in showing prevention or reduced rates of SIV infection or disease progression would stimulate human trials using HIV genes in the same VZV vector," says lead investigator Dr. Kelly MacDonald.
Free flu shots, fewer antibiotic prescriptions
Besides saving lives and sparing people from illness, Ontario's universal influenza immunization program – through which everyone aged six months and older can get a free flu shot – has other benefits as well. It has, for instance, significantly reduced the number of antibiotic prescriptions the province's MDs are writing. A 2009 study led by Dr. Jeff Kwong of the University of Toronto showed that influenza-associated respiratory prescriptions dropped from 2.7% to 1.1% since the introduction of the immunization program in 2000. That translates into 144,000 fewer prescriptions per year. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed for influenza, even though they are ineffective against the viral illness.
Malaria research gains international muscle
When Dr. Lakshmi Kotra and his team at the University Health Network in Toronto started investigating new ways to combat malaria, they didn't realize they were embarking on what would become an international effort. Buoyed by promising results in developing a compound that shuts down the disease by blocking a key protein, Dr. Kotra spearheaded the creation of a consortium of research teams from his institution and India's International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science. Therapure Biopharma of Canada and Lifecare Innovations of India are also part of the consortium, which was created with assistance from International Science and Technology Partnerships Canada Inc. and India's Department of Biotechnology. The consortium members will work together to create novel classes of drugs against malaria, which takes the life of a child every 45 seconds in Africa.
Fighting back against bacterial resistance
As bacterial infections become increasingly resistant to antibiotics, three investigators at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre are pooling their expertise to create new weapons and make existing ones more effective. Dr. David Byers originally developed a compound to interfere with the enzyme that bacteria need to create endotoxin, which reinforces the membrane around bacterial cells. He and team leader Dr. Don Weaver and Dr. Chris McMaster are now using various inhibitors of endotoxin synthesis as adjuvants to other antibiotics. "If we can find a way to inhibit the synthesis of the cell wall, if it doesn't kill the bacteria on its own it might help other antibiotics penetrate into the cell," says Dr. Byers.
For More Information
The CIHR Institute of Infection and Immunity (CIHR-III) led the charge against SARS, orchestrating a rapid research response unprecedented in Canadian health research. Its strategic priorities are the immune system and infectious disease. Areas that fall under this umbrella include vaccine development, food and water safety and the federal government's initiatives in HIV/AIDS research. To learn more about these priorities and other CIHR-III activities, please visit the Institute's website.
For more information, go to ARCHIVED - Your Health Research Dollars at Work.