Neural Infection, Inflammation and Immunity Research Group

The Challenge

Infectious diseases – both acute and chronic – produce major neurologic diseases worldwide. Infections disproportionately affect individuals at both extremes of the age spectrum: childhood and old age.

The complexity of the brain and its interconnectivity through the central nervous system create a particularly vulnerable environment for infectious disease within the human body. There is a lack of understanding of how chronic, persistent infections affect the central nervous system.

While antimicrobial therapy has reduced the impact of acute infection in the developed world, these infections still prevail in developing regions that host the majority of the world's population. Because infections are decreasing in the U.S., our clinicians are not always familiar with treating them.

The Innovation

We plan to develop a Center of Excellence in Neurologic Infections and Immunity that will help multidisciplinary groups of clinicians and basic scientists tackle problems of disease development and treatment, including:

  • Neurologists
  • Infectious disease experts
  • Immunologists
  • Virologists
  • Imaging experts
  • Molecular biologists
  • Geneticists

The Center will address these complex issues by using multiple levels of analysis, including molecular and cellular research, animal models, and human disease.

We plan to capitalize on the inter-disciplinary partnerships and synergy established by the UC San Diego Neuro-HIV program. UC San Diego’s track record in creating such multidisciplinary efforts, will make us uniquely positioned to expand research, care and education efforts to other viral infections.

Enhancing Patient Care

Potential advances and discoveries resulting from this work include the development of targeted treatments for tumors in which viral pathogens contribute to their development.

We also envision treatments to prevent stroke by reducing endothelial activation and neuroinflammation. Similarly, interventions might be developed to curb abnormal protein aggregation and resulting neurodegeneration.

Education

Many acute neurologic infections are managed through antimicrobial therapy in the U.S. population. Yet these infections are still prevalent in the developing world, creating a need for training among the next generation of neurologists.

Through a possible partnership with Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University Neurology Department, UC San Diego neurology residents would have the opportunity for clinical training to learn to diagnose and manage acute neurologic infections that they wouldn’t see locally. This could also create more opportunities for international research and collaboration. 


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View a discussion about HIV neurology with Ron Ellis, MD, PhD.