Researchers in the Milken Institute School of Public Health received two grants totaling $7 million last week to study the human microbiome, which is “the collection of bacteria and other microbes that live in and on the human body,” according to a University release.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases awarded researchers $3.3 million for a study on human penises’ “bacterial ecosystems” and how they affect men’s risks of getting HIV, according to the release. The other grant is a $3.7 million NIAID award for a study on bacteria in the human nose to find ways to protect people from staph infections.
Lance Price, the principal investigator on the projects, and Cindy Liu, the co-investigator, are a professor and assistant research professor, respectively, in the department of environmental and occupational health.
“These studies will tell us more about the colonies of microbes living in and on the human body,” Price said in the release. “In both cases, we will be looking for ways to alter the microbiome and protect people from disease that can range from sexually transmitted HIV to potentially lethal superbug infections.”
Liu, Price and other researchers found in a 2013 study that circumcision of the penis decreased anaerobic bacteria. The upcoming study will evaluate if a drop in such bacteria protects men from HIV, according to the release.
“If anaerobic bacteria play a role in transmission of HIV, we might be able to develop novel ways of preventing HIV infection,” Price said.
The other grant will fund researchers in discovering whether they can introduce bacteria that would keep staph out of the nose, according to the release.
Price and Liu identified a kind of bacteria that can push out certain nose infections, including staph infections, in a study last year.
“This study will show us whether we can introduce the good bugs to crowd out the bad,” Liu said in the release.