May 112018

Brooks Mitchell, Tropical Medicine PhD student, was awarded the Honolulu Chapter ARCS Foundation Ellen M. Koenig Foundation Award in Medicine on May 7, 2018 at the Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikiki.  Brooks received his BS in Microbiology and MS in Biomedical Sciences (Tropical Medicine) at the University of Hawaii‘i at Manoa. Brooks goals are to pursue an MD after completing his PhD, gaining clinical knowledge that will better articulate the significance of bench research to clinical research as a physician-scientist.

Brooks Mitchell with Drs. Sandra Chang, Cecilia Shikuma, and Vivek Nerurkar at the ARCS Foundation Awards Dinner, May 7, 2018.


May 092018

2018 UH Manoa Spring Undergraduate Showcase
May 4, 2018 @ UH Campus Center and Sakamaki Hall

Natural Sciences

  • Cindy Vuong (Mentor: Vivek Nerurkar) – 1st Place for oral presentation

Overall Poster Presentation

  • Boonyanudh Jiyarom (Mentor: Saguna Verma) – Honorable Mention

Biomedical Sciences and Health Disparities Symposium
April 18-19, 2018, Sullivan Conference Center, UH Cancer Center

Dean’s Award Recipients:
Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates Division

  • Chih-Yun Lai, PhD (Mentor: Axel Lehrer)

Undergraduate Division

  • Boonyanudh Jiyarom (Mentor: Saguna Verma)

2018 Hawaii Branch, ASM Spring Meeting
April 21, 2018, JABSOM Medical Education Bldg.

HI-ASM Travel Awards

  • Liana Medina, PhD student (Mentor: Axel Lehrer)
  • Jasmine Tyson, MS student (Mentor: Wei-Kung Wang)
  • Lauren Ching, MS student (Mentor: Vivek Nerurkar)

PhD Oral Presentation

  • Liana Medina (Mentor: Axel Lehrer) – 1st Place
  • Thomas Premeaux (Mentor: Lishomwa Ndhlovu – 2nd Place

PhD Poster Presentation

  • Albert To (Mentor: Axel Lehrer) – 1st Place
  • Allanna Tseng (Mentor: Pakieli Kaufusi) – 2nd Place
  • Brien Haun (Mentor: Axel Lehrer) – 3rd Place

MS Oral Presentation

  • Jasmine Tyson, MS student (Mentor: Wei-Kung Wang)

MS Poster Presentation

  • Francine Azouz, MS student (Mentor: Mukesh Kumar)

Undergraduate Oral Presentation

  • Kevin Vergara (Dept. Biology, Leeward Community College) – 1st Place

Undergraduate Poster Presentation

  • Michael Fernandez (Dept. Chemistry, UH Manoa) – 1st Place (tied)
  • Boonyanudh Jiyarom (Dept. Molecular and Cell Biology, UH Manoa) – 1st Place (tied), Dell Computer Winner
  • Jovikka Antallan (Dept. Health Sciences, Kapiolani Community College) – 3rd Place
Sep 262017


Samuel Tassi Yunga, Alexander K. Kayatani, Josephine Fogako, Robert J. I. Leke, Rose G. F. Leke, Diane W. Taylor


Plasmodium falciparum (Pf)-specific T- and B-cell responses may be present at birth; however, when during fetal development antibodies are produced is unknown. Accordingly, cord blood samples from 232 preterm (20–37 weeks of gestation) and 450 term (≥37 weeks) babies were screened for IgM to Pf blood-stage antigens MSP1, MSP2, AMA1, EBA175 and RESA. Overall, 25% [95% CI = 22–28%] of the 682 newborns were positive for IgM to ≥1 Pf antigens with the earliest response occurring at 22 weeks. Interestingly, the odds of being positive for cord blood Pf IgM decreased with gestational age (adjusted OR [95% CI] at 20–31 weeks = 2.55 [1.14–5.85] and at 32–36 weeks = 1.97 [0.92–4.29], with ≥37 weeks as reference); however, preterm and term newborns had similar levels of Pf IgM and recognized a comparable breadth of antigens. Having cord blood Pf IgM was associated with placental malaria (adjusted OR [95% CI] = 2.37 [1.25–4.54]). To determine if in utero exposure occurred via transplacental transfer of Pf-IgG immune complexes (IC), IC containing MSP1 and MSP2 were measured in plasma of 242 mother-newborn pairs. Among newborns of IC-positive mothers (77/242), the proportion of cord samples with Pf IC increased with gestational age but was not associated with Pf IgM, suggesting that fetal B cells early in gestation had not been primed by IC. Finally, when cord mononuclear cells from 64 term newborns were cultured in vitro, only 11% (7/64) of supernatants had Pf IgM; whereas, 95% (61/64) contained secreted Pf IgG. These data suggest fetal B cells are capable of making Pf-specific IgM from early in the second trimester and undergo isotype switching to IgG towards term.




Sep 132017

The Student Immunization Initiative (SII) hosted a booth to promote HPV vaccination among health professionals at the 10th Aloha Pediatric Infectious Disease Conference held at Honolulu Shriner’s Hospital for Children Auditorium on September 9, 2017.  SII members provided information on messaging strategies to attain and maintain higher HPV vaccination rates.  The agenda also included presentations on the mumps outbreak in Hawaii (Dr. Sarah Park), pediatric Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection (Dr. Marian Melish), zoonotic infections (Dr. Natascha Ching), and HPV vaccination (Dr. Raul Rudoy).  The conference was chaired by Dr. Raul Rudoy, Professor Emeritus of the John A Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) and was attended by community pediatricians and JABSOM pediatric and infectious disease faculty.

Jul 312017

On October 22, 2015, graduate students from the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology & Pharmacology (TRMD), and the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hawai‘i (UH) at Manoa volunteered to assist a public screening of “Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic” held by the Hawai‘i Immunization Coalition (HIC). What began as a single volunteer opportunity sparked the Student Immunization Initiative (SII), with an objective to continue educating the public about vaccine-preventable diseases, and later expanded to prevention of all infectious diseases. Read More >>



May 182017
Apr 102017

Authors: Mukesh Kumar,, Keeton K. Krause, Francine Azouz, Eileen Nakano, and Vivek R. Nerurkar

Virology Journal. 2017. DOI: 10.1186/s12985-017-0750-4.

Animal models are critical to understand disease and to develop countermeasures for the ongoing epidemic of Zika virus (ZIKV). Here we report that immunocompetent guinea pigs are susceptible to infection by a contemporary American strain of ZIKV. Upon subcutaneous inoculation with PRVABC59 strain of ZIKV, guinea pigs demonstrated clinical signs of infection characterized by fever, lethargy, hunched back, ruffled fur, and decrease in mobility. ZIKV was detected in the whole blood and serum using qRT-PCR and plaque assay. Anti-ZIKV neutralizing antibody was detected in the infected animals using PRNT. ZIKV infection resulted in a dramatic increase in protein levels of multiple cytokines, chemokines and growth factors in the serum. ZIKV replication was observed in spleen and brain, with the highest viral load in the brain. This data demonstrate that after subcutaneous inoculation, the contemporary ZIKV strain is neurotropic in guinea pigs. In conclusion, the guinea pig model described here recapitulates various clinical features and viral kinetics observed in ZIKV-infected patients, and therefore may serve as a model to study ZIKV pathogenesis, including pregnancy outcomes and for evaluation of vaccines and therapeutics.

Feb 212017

TRMD graduate students served as judges for the 2017 HAIS District Science Fair held Saturday, February 18th at the Hawaii Baptist Academy. From the HAIS website: “The HAIS District Science Fair is an amazing showcase of student work grades 6-12 from Hawai’i’s Independent Schools and Home School students. Students advance to the HAIS District Science Fair from their own school fairs, competing for qualifications to advance to the Hawai’i State Science & Engineering Fair. ”  Our graduate students were very impressed with the quality of research and profound thinking by the young future scientists!

The 60th Hawaii State Science & Engineering Fair will be held at the Hawaii State Convention Center on April 10-12, 2017.  Volunteer judges are needed for this event as well.


Hawaii Academy of Science HP:
HAIS district fair:

Contributed by SII.