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Advance in the research into infectious diseases

ICB studies benefit the lower classes

The researcher Magda Maria Sales Carneiro Sampaio, of the Immunology Department of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICB) of USP, has isolated the antibodies contained in maternal milk which protect newly-born babies for diarrhea. Her research is on verge of developing a vaccine, using genetically modified lactobacillus. This is research of great importance which will be especially beneficial to the lower classes, whose children are more affected by diarrhea. The Immunology Department was one of those that received the greater volume of resources from the Infrastructure Program to reform and modernize its laboratories. In total, the ICB received from the Infrastructure Program aboutR$ 11.3 million.

The Infra funds were applied in the re-wiring of the electrical circuitry of the two ICB buildings (ICB 1 and 2), aiding the research of six departments (physiology, pharmacology, histology, microbiology, parasitology and anatomy). The remainder was directed towards the Immunology Department for structural reforms, a new water piping system and furniture. The new and more ample space now houses its 20 laboratories. Besides the research into the antibodies present in maternal milk, other studies linked to the mechanism of infectious diseases have been benefited. “Our studies in this field are related to Chagas’s disease, schistosomiasis, leishmaniosis and paracoccidioidomycosis. This last represents a serious risk to people with depressed immunity” explains Magda. Other lines of research developed in the department refer to immunology applied to cancer, congenital immune deficiencies and various types of allergies and inflammations.

Managed by professor Erney Felicio Plessmann de Camargo, the Parasitology Department of the ICB of USP also produces advances in its research. Camargo invested the resources from the Infra in the physical renovation of the majority of the department’s laboratories. The labs are, biology for the development of nematoids, of glycobiology of parasites that studies the trypanosome that cause Chagas’s disease, as well as the agents that are responsible for typhoid fever, and the illnesses transmitted by ticks. Also on the list is the biochemistry of Leishmania sp. and free living amoebas, associated with encephalitic meningitis, skin and keratitis infections, of leishmaniosis and malaria through a biochemistry study of the protozoa Plasmodium falciparum, and decoding the genome of P. vivax, as well as the laboratories of leprosy and Chagas’s disease.

The laboratory of professor Camargo himself was the only one that was not renovated. There, vigilant research is done into emerging diseases such as rickettsiosis, erlichiosis and borreliosis infections. The laboratory has a base in the municipality of Montenegro, in the State of Rondônia, where the Advanced Research Center of the Parasitology Department of the ICB was installed. This center serves for the research of all of the departments. “Rondônia is an area of recent settling, very aggressive towards its local environment. The resulting ecological unbalance of this process has increased the risk of man developing new diseases present before only in the wild cycle”, says Camargo.

In the Microbiology Department of ICB/USP, the reforms were coordinated by professors Sebastião Timo Iaria and Carlos Martins Menck. Iaria looked after the replacement of the electrical circuits, water and gas piping and the general brickwork repairs throughout the ICB 2 building where various departments are situated. Menck, a professor of microbiology, received one of the restored rooms and set out on to complete his DNA laboratory, installing benches and cupboards. He also renovated the more complex areas destined to the purifying of material, electrophoresis of DNA, the growing of bacterium cells and biochemistry, and manipulation of radioactive substances. As well, a genome laboratory was established that has participated in the projects of the sequencing of the bacteria of Xylella, of Xanthomonas citri, of sugar cane and took part in the sequencing of Schistosoma mansoni (which causes schistossomiosis).

In the Physiology and Biophysics Department, which has twenty laboratories, besides the general remodeling, new equipment and instruments, indispensable to research, such as ultracentrifuges, freezers with temperatures as low as -85°C for storing live material, and leaden cupboards for radioactive material, were purchased. Also purchased was a PCR apparatus used in the technique of DNA duplicating, and the equipment of Northern Blot and Western Blot for the separation of RNA, proteins and for cloning.

The results of the program can be gauged by the increase in scientific production of the institution. “Beginning in 1995, the ICB had an enormous jump in its scientific production”, says Magda. Besides the growth in the absolute number of scientific papers, the research gained in quality, a fact that can be judged by the increase in the percentage of publications, rate that comes from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI): the rate rose from 0.8 papers per researcher to 1.3 papers.