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CSU Awarded Federal Grant for Infectious Disease Research

Biologist Sailen Barik, Ph.D. to investigate respiratory virus affecting infants and older adults

Cleveland State University researcher Sailen Barik, Ph.D. was recently awarded a grant for more than $400,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), a major pediatric virus, which causes severe respiratory disease, primarily in infants and older adults.

Dr. Barik is a Professor in the Department of biological, geological and environmental sciences at CSU. He is also a member of the Center for Gene Regulation in Health and Disease. His primary research interest is to understand how viruses infect their hosts and cause illness. He has received more than $4 million in NIH funding for his research since 1994.

“Despite efforts within the health care industry, there are no effective drugs for preventing or treating RSV. Diagnosed patients are treated for the symptoms, but they currently must depend on their own innate immunity. With this new award, we will continue research into unexplored mechanisms to combat this virus,” said Dr. Barik.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV infects the lungs and breathing passages. While most healthy people recover from RSV in 1 to 2 weeks, RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia, among infants and young children under 1 year of age in the U.S. The CDC estimates that each year, on average, in the U.S., RSV leads to as many as 172,000 hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old and causes up to 14,000 deaths in adults older than 65 years.

“RSV has genes that allow it to fight our natural immunity. Our project is geared toward understanding how these viral immune suppressors work. From there, we hope to design a drug that will inhibit these viral functions so that the body’s immune system will have a better chance of winning,” he said.