The site in Merida, Mexico is based at the Center for Regional Investigations (CIR) of the Autonomous University of Yucatan.
Richard Oberhelman, MD, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences at the Tulane SPHTM and Professor of Pediatrics at the Tulane School of Medicine. He has been actively involved in clinical and laboratory-based collaborative research since 1985. During that time, he has directed a variety of major collaborative research projects on pediatric diarrheal disease or pediatric tuberculosis.
Eric DuMonteil, PhD, is an associate professor at the CIR and an adjunct professor of tropical medicine at the Tulane SPHTM. His research includes the development of novel strategies for the control of parasitic diseases, such as DNA vaccines, and vector control strategies using mathematical modeling and GIS.
Ongoing research at CIR focuses on Chagas disease, a parasitic infection in the blood common in the American tropics. This includes studies of therapeutic DNA vaccines for Chagas disease and Leishmaniasis, another insect-borne parasitic disease. The project involves basic immunological studies in mice. Congenital infection with Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite which causes Chagas disease, occurs in all endemic areas of Latin America, with different intensities and characteristics in each sub-region.
Congenital transmission depends directly on the prevalence of the infection in fertile women and seems to vary according to different epidemiological factors, such as the strain of the parasite, the parasitemia of the mother, the existence of lesions in the placenta and the geographical region. Thus, endemic countries should consider congenital T. cruzi infection as a public health problem. The research group in Merida are performing studies on the epidemiology of congenital T. cruzi infections. Such studies are important in assessing the status of T. cruzi endemicity in the region, with a focus on pregnant women and their newborn infants. The project involves serology in pregnant women and direct parasite examination in cord blood at birth.