UMKC Biology Professor Receives $3.9 Million NIH Research Grant

Research focuses on using massive electronic health records database to estimate the impacts of climate change on fungal disease spread in the U.S.
A picture of Theodore White

Theodore White, Ph.D., division director and Marion Merrell Dow Endowed Professor in the UMKC School of Science and Engineering, was recently awarded a five-year $3.96 million National Institutes of Health grant to study fungal infections in the United States.

Common fungal diseases in the United States include blood stream and lung diseases as well as athlete’s foot, vaginal yeast infections and oral thrush. These infections have been increasing in numbers and spreading globally for many years, with blood, brain and lung fungal infections having a 50% or more mortality rate. The lack of current data on the number of fungal infections in the United States, and the correlation to socioeconomic status, has precluded a deeper understanding of the role of climate change and extreme climate events on these fungal infections. White’s research aims to change that.

“Over the last 10 years, we have been seeing increasing fungal infections, as well as significant climate changes,” White says. “Our grant will try to determine if there is a correlation between the two.” he said.

White and his team will use a new database to better estimate the number and type of fungal infections across the United States on a yearly basis. The  database can track information from the last 15 years or more to examine the role of socioeconomic status of de-identified patients with these fungal infections, and determine if there is a correlation between those infections and climate change or extreme weather events.

This project is a collaboration among the University of Missouri Kansas City, University of California, Berkeley and Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

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Published: Aug 11, 2023

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