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UND professor snags $1.78 million grant to study pneumonia, flu

Nadeem Khan
Nadeem Khan

It’s a fever and a cough, a runny nose and aches and pains, a sore throat and fatigue.

Those are just a few of the symptoms of the flu. While most people will recover in a few days or a couple weeks, some people will develop complications, such as pneumonia or a sinus or ear infection, as a result of the flu.

But while people can get the vaccine, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be effective or protect someone from those other complications.

One UND professor is researching that relationship between the flu and some of its more moderate complications thanks to a new grant from the National Institute of Health. Dr. Nadeem Khan, assistant professor in the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences, has been awarded a five-year, $1.78 million grant by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant will be used to support Khan’s research on pneumonia and influenza, including potential innovative treatment options for the multiple illnesses, which are caused by bacteria and viruses, respectively.


There is a complicated relationship between influenza and pneumonia and other bacterial illnesses, the UND med school said in a press release announcing the grant.

Influenza infection in the host’s respiratory airway may lead to an increased likelihood of secondary pneumonia caused by certain bacteria. A major invasive bacteria, streptococcus pneumonia contributes to a series of human illnesses, including strep throat, ear infection, bronchitis, pink eye and pneumonia, according to a UND news release.

“Our lab is helping to explain the complex interplay between inflammation and disease pathology in the respiratory airway,” Khan said. “The outcome of these interactions determines many aspects of inflammation and the pathogenesis of respiratory infections and allergic diseases.”

Exploring the interaction of this bacteria and the influenza virus, Khan is looking to develop new treatment strategies to fight the flu and flu-associated bacterial pneumonia, which is a significant disease burden in the United States. This current project is an extension of Khan’s earlier work, most of which has been focused on respiratory infection and other lung pathologies, including allergic asthma.

“This is a great recognition of the innovative work that Dr. Khan is doing to investigate the mechanisms by which the flu virus weakens the system and interacts with other infectious diseases,” said Marc Basson, SMHS senior associate dean for medicine and research. “And it’s especially timely as we move into flu season.”

Khan’s lab is one of several at the SMHS dedicated to studying host-pathogen interactions. Led by Dr. Jyotika Sharma, the School houses a team of researchers investigating disease-causing microbes and viruses — including Francisella, Lyme disease, HIV and Zika. Much of this research is funded by a Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (CoBRE) grant through the NIH.

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