A global team led by researchers from the University of Hawaii Manoa, University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin, have been awarded a five-year, $6.2 million grant to study how having HIV puts children at greater risk of contracting and dying from tuberculosis.

Dr. Lishoma Ndhlovu, a professor of tropical medicine a the John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH. 

The grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseaseswill fund experiments on primates to see how those diseases affect one another and explore potential treatments, according to a news release Tuesday from the John A. Burns School of Medicine at UH.

As part of the study, Dr. Lishomwa Ndhlovu, a professor of tropical medicine at the medical school, will investigate whether the same findings found in the primate studies are true for children living in Myanmar, which has high rates of HIV and TB.

In collaboration with the Yangon Children’s Hospital, Ndhlovu and his team will work in collaboration with the Yangon Children’s Hospital to study blood samples from children in Myanmar.

“The idea is to see whether children living with HIV have the same T cell deficiencies and immune exhaustion markers as the laboratory animals do, and whether those markers correlate with TB coinfection rates,” according to the news release.

Tina Shelton, director of communications for the John A. Burns School of Medicine, said Ndhlovu is already working in Myanmar with children who were born with HIV that now have tuberculosis. “That’s really a death sentence for most of these children,” she said.

Children with HIV are much more likely to develop tuberculosis than the general population. About 40,000 HIV-positive children die from TB each year, the release noted.

“Children with HIV are very vulnerable to TB, and anything we can do to try to better understand the pathology of the disease and potentially develop new interventions would make a great dent in the morbidity and mortality of the two diseases,” Ndhlovu said.

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