Associate Professor Dr Carla Cerami from the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine and the Institute of Global Health University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, joined our Nutrition Theme as a Senior Investigator Scientist in June 2016.
Dr Cerami’s research interests are in global health, infectious diseases, metabolism and nutrition.
In 1987, Dr Cerami acquired her Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Columbia College in New York City. She earned both her Medical Degree and PhD from the New York University School of Medicine in 1993. Dr Cerami’s interest in malaria and commitment to Global Health began during her dissertation at the New York University with Dr Victor Nussenzweig. Having completed her surgical internship at North Shore University Hospital, Dr Cerami went on to become one of the founders of The Kenneth S. Warren Institute, a non-profit research Institute dedicated to translational global health research.
In 2009 she joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Gillings School of Public Health in Chapel Hill, USA where she carried out research on the impact of host iron status on growth and viability of erythrocytic states of Plasmodium falciparum, host determinants of susceptibility to cerebral and use of novel neuroprotective peptides to treat cerebral malaria. At MRCG, Dr Cerami is currently working on two research projects, investigating host iron and pathogen interactions.
Iron supplementation studies in Africa and Asia have reported increased rates of respiratory infections, severe diarrhea and febrile illnesses of unknown origin, but the mechanisms are unclear. Dr Cerami and her team are investigating the possible mechanisms by which host iron supplementation impacts bacterial pathogenesis. Dr Cerami and Professor Andrew Prentice have just been awarded Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding for the NeoInnate study examining the possible protective effect against septicemia of acute neonatal hypoferremia. The study will be conducted at Serrekunda Hospital.
Dr Cerami’ previous work has shown that the effects of iron deficiency and iron supplementation on parasite growth are due to changes in red blood cell physiology and the age structure of the red blood cell population. She is now continuing this work using red blood cells from pregnant women and children enrolled in iron supplementation trials in The Gambia. Both the malaria infection and iron supplementation project and bacteria and iron supplementation hold potential keys to the safe administration of iron in malaria endemic areas in a sustainable cost-effective manner.