A University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) professor was recently awarded funds by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study fungal meningitis.
Professor of Medicine Peter Pappas will examine how individuals contract cryptococcus meningitis and ways to treat the infection. Two species of fungus are the cause of the majority of cryptococcus meningitis cases each year worldwide.
Individuals with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to infection. Approximately a million people with HIV/AIDS come down with the disease each year, approximately 625,000 of whom die.
Pappas called fungal meningitis a "hidden epidemic" that needs more attention.
"Most people are infected with cryptococcus when they're children; you inhale it and it becomes a controlled dormant infection, and then it can reactivate in adulthood," Pappas said. "It's not contagious in the normal sense of the word; it is not something you are going to pick up from somebody else unless you are given a contaminated organ during a transplant."
Pappas' project to study fungal meningitis will be funded by a three-year, renewable award from the NIH of up to $500,000 annually. Volunteers with healthy immune systems will be asked to enroll in a trial, provide bloodwork and be evaluated.
The project begins this month at UAB with the help of Johns Hopkins and 20 other medical research centers in the U.S.