Dr. Peter Barnes of UT Health Center is known for his research into TB and the bacteria that cause it

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Peter Barnes, MD, was one of the primary investigators in a recent major clinical study of a new blood test for latent tuberculosis that was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Barnes is director of the Center for Pulmonary and Infectious Disease Control and a professor of microbiology and immunology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler.

Results from the study showed that the new ELISPOT blood test may be more sensitive than the TB skin test, Dr. Barnes said. It was the first large-scale use of the new blood test. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved ELISPOT, though the test currently is under review.

Dr. Barnes is also co-principal investigator of a $1.4 million, five-year National Institutes of Health grant to study how a specific protein called interferon gamma helps protect people from tuberculosis. Interferon-gamma is an important cytokine, a protein produced by the cell that helps the body fight off infection.

Buka Samten, MD, instructor of microbiology and immunology at UTHSCT, is the grant’s other co-principal investigator. Susan Howard, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at UTHSCT, is a co-investigator for the grant.

In addition, Dr. Barnes is co-investigator in a separate $1.35 million, five-year NIH grant to explore the role of natural killer cells in tuberculosis infection. The five-year study is investigating how natural killer cells, a part of the innate immune system, help control tuberculosis by destroying cells infected with TB bacteria. Understanding how the human immune response controls TB may lead to the development of an effective vaccine against tuberculosis.

Principal investigator for that grant is Ramakrishna Vankayalapati, Ph.D., an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at UTHSCT. Dr. Barnes and Buka Samten, MD, instructor of microbiology and immunology, are the two co-investigators.

Nine UTHSCT researchers currently are examining various aspects of tuberculosis and how it infects people. For example, Homayoun Shams, Ph.D., an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, is studying several proteins that are promising candidates for inclusion in a new, more effective TB vaccine. Dr. Howard, in addition to participating in the grant on interferon gamma, is studying the tuberculosis bacteria and how they respond when stressed by the body’s immune system.

Dr. Barnes is board certified in internal medicine and infectious disease. He received his medical degree from the University of Southern California in 1981. Dr. Barnes completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in infectious disease at the LAC-USC Medical Center. Before coming to the Health Center in 1997 as director of the CPIDC, he was an associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California.

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