The Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee awarded the following Collaborative Health Sciences Program grants in 2015:

Big Data for Little Kids: The Impact of Prenatal Interventions on Birth Outcomes and School Readiness

Principal investigator: Deborah Ehrenthal, MD, MPH, Obstetrics and Gynecology
Co-investigators: Lawrence Berger, PhD, Social Work; Eric Grodsky, PhD, Sociology
Award: $499,314 over three years

Being born prematurely or at a low birth weight shapes a child’s future health, cognitive ability and educational attainment. Research has shown that intensive home visiting programs, delivered during pregnancy and two years postpartum, have long-lasting health and educational benefits. However, less is known about interventions focused solely on the prenatal period.

Researchers from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, the Institute for Research on Poverty and the Wisconsin Center for Demography and Ecology will assess data from birth records, Medicaid claims, and kindergarten-entry literacy screenings in five Wisconsin counties with the greatest health and educational disparities: Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Beloit and Dane.  Together, these counties account for more than ninety percent of births to African-American mothers in the state.

The overall goal is to better understand the impact of three prenatal programs on infant health and early childhood literacy: Prenatal Care Coordination, Obstetrical Medical Home and the use of 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate to prevent preterm birth. Ultimately, this work will help refine these and inform other strategies designed to reduce racial disparities in preterm delivery and adverse infant health outcomes.

Paradigm shifting, high throughput assay for serial quantification of HIV reservoirs

Principal investigator: Robert Striker, MD, PhD, Medicine
Co-investigator: Scott Berry, PhD, Biomedical Engineering
Award: $499,761 over three years

Thirty-five million people worldwide live with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), including nearly 7,000 Wisconsinites. HIV infection disproportionately affects low socioeconomic and minority populations. A 2014 Wisconsin Department of Health Services report revealed that almost 70 percent of new HIV diagnoses were among racial and ethnic minorities, despite their making up only 17 percent of the state’s population.

Antiretroviral therapy has transformed the lives of individuals diagnosed with HIV. Therapy effectively suppresses, but does not cure HIV. This is because of a hidden reservoir of long-lived infected immune cells which replicate the virus just days after therapy is stopped. Better clinical treatment and a potential cure for HIV resides in shrinking or eliminating this reservoir. With current technology the size of the reservoir can be measured only after treatment is stopped. Predicting which patients have increasing or decreasing reservoirs is not possible.

This project, a collaboration between an infectious disease specialist and a biomedical engineer, will develop and validate an automated, affordable assay to measure the size of the reservoir. By helping researchers gain a mechanistic understanding of how reservoirs grow and shrink, this assay represents a critical step forward in HIV treatment and in ultimately finding a cure.

Screening in Trauma for Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOMP)

Principal investigator: Randall Brown, MD, PhD, Family Medicine and Community Health
Co-investigator: Suresh Agarwal, MD, Surgery
Award: $499,293 over three years

Addiction to and overdose from opioids like morphine, oxycodone and heroine have reached epidemic proportions in the United States—Wisconsin is no exception. Over the past decade, opioid-related incidence of overdose and death in the state has increased more than 300 percent. Prescription opioids contribute to the vast majority of opioid-related complications, including overdose and death. Victims of traumatic injury are at greater risk for misusing opioids than the general population. Therefore, appropriate assessment, prevention and intervention for this high risk group is needed.

This project will pilot a screening tool to assess patient risk of opioid misuse. The team will convene a summit of addiction experts and representatives from Wisconsin’s four largest trauma centers to inform the initial development of the screening tool. The trauma centers will also test and provide feedback for further refinement of the tool based on clinical implementation. This work is expected to result in better screening and early intervention, ultimately reducing opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose deaths.

Winning the War on Antibiotic Resistance in Wisconsin: The WARRIOR Study

Principal investigator: Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD, Medicine
Co-investigators: Federico Rey, PhD, Bacteriology; Ajay Sethi, PhD, MHS, Population Health Sciences
Award: $498,501 over three years

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 2 million people annually in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. More than 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections.

Dr. Safdar and her team want to learn more about how the diversity of organisms in the gastrointestinal tract, or gut, play a role in preventing antibiotic resistant infections. The gut, is home to a complex community of over 100 trillion microbial cells which play a key role in human health. In the normal gut, commensal microbes can effectively inhibit invading pathogens, including multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs). Any disruption in the gut microbiota —the microscopic living organisms in the gut— reduces this natural colonization resistance and renders individuals vulnerable to invading organisms.

The team hypothesizes that diets high in fiber, which are known to increase microbial diversity, also lead to lower MDRO colonization. To test this hypothesis, detailed health information will be collected from participants across the state using the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW). A one-of-a-kind statewide population health survey which is funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program, SHOW tracks trends in priority health indicators. Long-term, this project aims to reduce the number of MDRO infections in Wisconsin and beyond.