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Environmental & Occupational Health

R01 Five-Year Grant: Air Pollution Effects on Human Antimycobacterial Immunity (a.k.a. “MexAir”)

Supported by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health (R01ES020382)

Led by Dr. Stephan Schwander (principal investigator), this translational research project aims to understand the role exposure to air pollution particulate matter (PM) has on human susceptibility to infection with M.tb, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). This question is of significant global public health relevance as large populations in TB endemic countries are exposed to high levels of ambient air pollution in large, often congested, urban dwellings that undergo rapid growth with vehicular traffic and growing industries.

The goal of the project is to assess the impact of ambient and indoor air pollution particulate matter (PM) exposure on human protective antimycobacterial immunity. Because the lungs are the primary portal of entry for inhaled aerosolized particulate matter (PM) and M.tb, the project will also assess the effects of exposure to urban fine PM (< 2.5 microns in size) on primary human lung (bronchoalveolar) and respiratory epithelial cells. The impact of short-term and long-term exposure to ambient and indoor air pollution and of seasonal variability and physicochemical characteristics of PM2.5 from Mexico City will be assessed on cellular toxicity, pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine production, mRNA expression and M.tb uptake and growth control.

Main/Research Study Sites

  • Iztapalapa, Mexico City
  • National Institute for Respiratory Diseases (INER), Mexico City
  • National Centre for Environmental Research and Training (CENICA)
  • Rutgers School of Public Health, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, New Brunswick Campus

About Iztapalapa, Mexico City

Iztapalapa, a municipality with two million inhabitants within the megalopolis of Mexico City (26 million inhabitants) serves as the main study site. Iztapalapa’s population continues to be exposed to high levels of ambient and indoor air pollution as well as M.tb.

About Iztapalapa, Mexico City

The multidisciplinary study involves project co-investigators in environmental sciences, toxicology, biostatistics, microbiology and immunology from:

  • National Institute for Ecology (INEC), Mexico City
  • Autonomous University of Mexico (UAM), Mexico City
  • University of Alberta, Canada
  • Duke University, NC
  • Urban Outdoor Air Quality
  • University of Michigan, MI

Global Implications

The research project has major global environmental and global public health implications as both tuberculosis and air pollution cause large scale morbidity and mortality in disadvantaged and impoverished populations worldwide.

Related Research in the Schwander lab

  • Effects of diesel exhaust particles (major component of urban ambient air pollution particulate matter) and World Trade Center dust and their in vitro effects on human primary antimycobacterial immune cell responses.
  • Effects of engineered and consumer product derived nanomaterial (silver, carbon black, cerium oxide nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes) on human primary immune cell functions in context of grants from the NIEHS and US EPA with a large group of investigators in environmental, exposure and material sciences and lung cell biology at Rutgers University, Duke University, and Imperial College in London.
  • Drs. Schwander and Meng from the ENOH Department together with researchers at the Nevada Desert Research Institute and Makerere University conducted a pilot study on particulate air pollution in Mpererwe district of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.