Albany Medical College to study tularemia with large grant from NIH

The National Institutes of Health has awarded Albany Medical College a grant to fund ongoing biodefense research into the bacterium that causes tularemia, a potentially deadly disease for which there is no vaccine.

This is the largest grant the medical college has received. It is believed that tularemia could be a disease used in bioterrorism, Times Union reports.

Dennis Metzger, the lead investigator and a professor, and Theobald Smith an alumni chair, and director of the Center for Immunology and Microbial Disease, said that the goal of the research is to develop a vaccine to protect against respiratory tularemia.

Respiratory tularemia is a "Category A" disease, the highest biothreat level as named by the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases due to it being highly infective, fatal and fairly easily spread as an aerosol, Times Union reports.

Tularemia is also known as rabbit fever, deer fly fever and Ohara's fever. The bacterium was first isolated in 1912 by G.W. McCoy of the U.S. Public Health Service plague lab. It was determined then that coming into contact with an infected animal could spread the disease. The ailment became associated with hunters, cooks and agricultural workers.

Albany Medical College has received $17.6 million in grants from NIH since 2001 when it began researching tularemia, according to Times Union.

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National Institutes of Health 9000 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20892

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