Johns Hopkins Gazette | March 9, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 9, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 25
New Initiative to Tackle Leading Killer of Children

By Tim Parsons
Bloomberg School of Public Health

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has received three grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation totaling more than $43 million to be used to help understand the causes of pneumonia, which go unidentified in up to one-third of patients. Pneumonia kills more children than any other illness. Scaling up proven and available interventions, such as pneumococcal vaccines and antibiotic treatments, could prevent many pneumonia deaths. Research to fully understand the causes of pneumonia in the remaining cases could help develop the tools to prevent even more.

The core initiative at Johns Hopkins, called the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health, or PERCH, aims to build a new, rigorous evidence base by studying the causes of pediatric pneumonia in five to 10 countries across the developing world using state-of-the-art diagnostics.

"Our current information on pneumonia etiology is about to become obsolete," said Orin Levine, associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health and principal investigator of the project. "Most existing information was generated 10 to 20 years ago with laboratory techniques that hadn't changed vastly since Louis Pasteur's time. By applying modern tools with standardized methods, we will be able to provide new, precise information to guide the development of new vaccines and treatments."

Two additional Johns Hopkins studies will strengthen the initiative's fight against pneumonia and related diseases. Hope Johnson, a research associate in the school's Center for Accelerated Vaccine Access, will project the burden of disease in adolescents and adults attributable to two dangerous bacteria — the pneumococcus and the meningococcus — that together cause many cases of pneumonia and other life-threatening illnesses such as meningitis. Jennifer Moisi, an assistant scientist in the Center for Accelerated Vaccine Access, will undertake an evaluation of diagnostic methods for pneumococcal disease, a major cause of childhood pneumonia, particularly in the developing world. Together these projects will influence the development and deployment of lifesaving vaccines throughout the world.

The pneumonia initiative, based at the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health, follows on the heels of the successful school-based PneumoADIP project, which accelerated access to childhood pneumococcal vaccines for the developing world by nearly 10 years. Through the new initiative, the Johns Hopkins group continues to advance protection for all children against pneumonia.


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