Funded Research

Defining the Role of Viruses in Environmental Enteropathy
Principal Investigator(s):
  • Lori Holtz, M.D. Pediatrics
  • Center for Metabolism and Immunity
Award Mechanism:
Faculty Recruitment/Scholar Award
Project Period:
2/1/2013 - 1/31/2018
Total Amount:

Dr. Holtz is currently an Instructor in the Dept. of Pediatrics and an outstanding young investigator whose research is focused on the discovery of new viruses and their associated diseases.  She did her residency in Pediatrics at Vanderbilt followed by a gastroenterology fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine.  She a CTSA K2 scholar under the mentorship of Drs. David Wang and Phil Tarr, and is completing a master’s degree in public health.   Dr, Holtz is developing a translational research laboratory to study virus-associated disorders of the developing childhood gut, using metagenomics, virology and epidemiology techniques.  One such disorder is environmental enteropathy (EE) associated with inflammation and flattening of the lining of the small bowel, leading to malabsorption of nutrients and stunting of growth.  There has been a long-standing belief that infections play a major role in EE, but studies have failed to find bacterial or parasitic causes. She will test the hypothesis that viruses are associated with the development or maintenance of EE using state-of-the-art technologies to study known and unknown viruses in stool samples from children with and without EE. 

Potential impact:  Under-nutrition contributes to one-third of childhood deaths worldwide, and EE is estimated to affect more than 75% of the developing world’s children, and thus is a major cause of under-nutrition.  Identification of associated viruses may lead to improvements in managing this condition, which also affects absorption of medications and vaccines.   Dr. Holtz also plans to use the tools she is developing to study other diseases, such as cryptogenic hepatitis, acute liver failure, inflammatory bowel disease and necrotizing enterocolitis, which affect a large number of people and are likely to have a yet undefined viral cause.