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Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s most deadly diseases, killing more than one million people each year. A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Life Sciences faculty member has earned a two-year, $150,000 grant from the American Lung Association (ALA) for public impact research on TB.

Associate Professor Sladjana Prišić earned ALA’s innovation award and has been selected to the ALA Research Team, a group of world-class scientists tackling a range of lung health issues.

TB was the world’s deadliest infectious disease until 2020, when it was overtaken by COVID-19. The pandemic has had a negative effect on efforts to control TB. The current treatment process is long and complex, and not sufficient to eradicate TB. Prišić is investigating whether low zinc levels lead to an increase in TB infections. Findings may lead to the discovery of new drugs to treat the disease.

“It is very frustrating that we have not eradicated TB yet, considering that we know what causes it since 1882 when Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis” Prišić said. “We need to find a different way to study this bacterium and zinc limitation may be an important piece of the puzzle.”

Prišić joins a team of more than 130 researchers who are now funded by ALA. In 2022, ALA awarded a total of $13.1 million in research grants that address a wide range of lung health topics, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and more.

Research projects funded by ALA are selected through rigorous scientific review and awardees represent the investigation of a wide range of complex issues. Awards were given in eight different categories, including the innovation award, which was presented to Prišić.

Dr. Prišić is part of an elite team that helps us address the American Lung Association’s mission to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. More than 34 million Americans live with lung disease, and as we face new challenges like youth vaping and new respiratory infections, lung health research is more important than ever,” said American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Albert Rizzo. “We are proud to have Dr. Prišić on our team to help us realize our vision of a world free of lung disease.”

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