The department faculty conduct active research in the areas of dengue, West Nile and other flavivirus virology and epidemiology, hantavirus virology and epidemiology, lentiviruses and polyomaviruses, epidemiology and pathogenesis of hepatitis-associated viruses, HIV and other retroviruses, molecular epidemiology and evolution of viruses, ecology of infectious diseases, evaluation of Hepatitis B vaccination programs in Asia and Pacific countries, molecular biology, genetics of drug-resistant bacteria, autoimmunity in rheumatic diseases, characterization of Group A streptococcus, and M. tuberculosis in Pacific Islander and Asian populations. Collaboration with infectious disease clinicians and international research institutes further expand research opportunities in the areas of HIV, Kawasaki disease, dengue, arboviruses, and zoonotic viruses. The department also supports a regional arbovirus diagnostic laboratory that will provide reference services to laboratories in Asian and Pacific countries.
An important aspect of the department’s research effort is the development and evaluation of vaccines for the prevention of important tropical diseases. The department’s Human Malaria Research Group investigates immunological problems in malaria vaccine development and vaccine-induced and naturally-induced immunity to malaria infection. The group collaborates with other research teams in both academic institutions and in the biotechnology industry, as well as with field site scientists in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. In addition, the department is developing a field site in Vietnam that will provide the platform to evaluate dengue vaccines and drugs for tropical diseases, and to conduct detailed epidemiologic, ecologic, and pathogenetic-related studies.
Other research projects in the department include investigations into the relationship of infectious agents to autoimmune diseases, the genetic factors associated with immunological disease, characterization of Group A streptococcus, the study of immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis in Pacific Islander and Asian populations, genetics of drug-resistant bacteria, including M. tuberculosis in Hawaii, ecology of leptospirosis, and evaluation of hepatitis B vaccination programs in Asia and Pacific countries.
Research activities in ecology of infectious disease include investigation of the ecological context of water borne and vector borne pathogens. The emphasis is on the integration of molecular, organismal, and ecological research methods to better understand the transmission dynamics and behavior of infectious disease. This also includes a research focus on Hawaii’s unique mountain-to-sea catchments as laboratories of infectious disease ecology, and study of the social, environmental, and development factors interacting within these social-ecological systems. The place-based components of this research often incorporate collaborative and participatory research approaches involving local communities, and integrating between the disciplines and sectors relevant to an ecological understanding of infectious disease.
Pharmacology research within the department focuses on drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics. Research into developmental pharmacology in pregnancy and pediatric medicine is also a strong theme. The newly established human organ bank, in partnership with Organ Donor Center of Hawai’i, is a central part of our translational research effort and provides tissues to researchers throughout the UH Manoa and JABSOM campuses.
A major goal of the department is to provide Asian and Pacific countries the expertise needed to expand laboratory and epidemiologic capacity in tropical infectious diseases research. The department also has active research programs with several community hospitals and collaborates closely with the State of Hawai’i Department of Health, providing instruction and expertise in bioterrorism preparedness and diagnosis of infectious diseases using the latest technology.