Page last updated at 23:56 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 00:56 UK

Grant to combat flesh-eating bug

Leishmania infection
The infection can cause large skin sores

Strathclyde University has been awarded £65,000 by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates' charity to combat a potentially-fatal flesh-eating infection.

The cash will be used to develop a treatment for Leishmania.

The parasitic disease, spread by the bite of infected sand flies, can cause skin sores and attack internal organs.

Traditional treatments can have serious side effects. The Strathclyde team aims to develop a laser-targeted system to vaccinate against the infection.

The $100,000 grant is one of 78 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support "bold and largely unproven ways to improve health in developing countries".

It will support the work of Dr Owain Millington and Dr Gail McConnell at Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences.

Sand fly
The parasites which cause the disease are carried by the sand fly

They aim to combine immunology, parasitology and laser-based imaging to design and build a new vaccination system.

It involves using one laser system to create images of Leishmania parasites, and then using a second laser to kill the parasites within cells.

Dr Millington said: "The Leishmania parasite is hugely damaging and one of its worst features is that it manipulates the immune system to prolong its survival.

"This means there's an urgent need for new drugs to control the diseases it creates, and protect against infection.

"Our aim is to work towards creating immunity with new and improved imaging systems to find, target and kill Leishmania parasites in a way which is less invasive and less time-consuming than current methods."



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