Posted Nov. 19, 2014
Roman Ganta, PhD, professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University, was awarded a four-year, $1.8 million National Institutes of Health grant to continue studying the tick-borne bacterium Ehrlichia chaffeensis, the university announced Oct. 8.
With the latest grant, Dr. Ganta now has 16 years of continuous NIH funding for his research related to tick-borne pathogens.
By studying the genetic makeup of E chaffeensis, Dr. Ganta and his research team plan to develop vaccines to protect against infections from the bacterium and similar tick-borne pathogens.
“Our research is directed at more than just one pathogen and one disease from one tick,” Dr. Ganta said.
“There are several different tick species that transmit pathogens that cause diseases in humans, dogs, cattle, sheep, and other vertebrate animals. Our research also applies to other pathogens transmitted from different tick species.”
Ehrlichia chaffeensis is transmitted to humans and animals by the lone star tick. The bacteria causes monocytic ehrlichiosis in humans. The lone star tick is prevalent in eastern Kansas and throughout the southeastern and south-central regions of the U.S., where cases of human monocytic ehrlichiosis are frequent.
The major goal of Dr. Ganta’s research is to understand what proteins are important for E chaffeensis to grow in vertebrate hosts and in ticks.
Dr. Ganta and his research team are working at the genome level to understand how the pathogen grows in humans, animals, and ticks, and how it is uniquely able to adapt to vertebrate hosts and ticks.
“We want to identify which genes are essential for the pathogen and use them to develop a vaccine,” Dr. Ganta said. “We want to understand the molecular basis for the pathogenesis by carrying out basic research that has important implications for applied science.”
Dr. Ganta has also received $90,000 from KSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the college’s Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology to develop a tick-rearing laboratory.