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Projects Funded with Texas Children's Hospital

Since January 2007, Texas Children's Hospital and its Department of Pathology have effectively partnered with the Grant-A-Starr Foundation

Diagnosing unknown Childhood Infections

A Project of the Texas children's Microbiome center


Approximately 75 percent of medical decision-making depends on diagnostic laboratory services. Knowing the cause of an infection means that we can treat and save a child. It also means that we can spare other children from getting these infections by innocently "hanging out together". Not knowing the cause or dealing with unexplained and undiagnosed infections means that we are "shooting in the dark" and guessing at treatment, with potentially hazardous consequences, even in the best medical centers of the United States. The Diagnostic Testing Research Project is being redefined and relabeled, effective immediately. The new project name is entitled Diagnosing Unknown Childhood Infections (DUCI), and it will be performed within the Texas Children's Microbiome Center. As of October 1, 2011, the center's DNA sequencing and analyses pipelines are fully operational and ready to move ahead with the latest, next generation DNA sequencing technologies. Texas Children's Hospital (TCH) is the only pediatric center in Texas with next-generation DNA sequencing capabilities.


Since January 2007, Texas Children's Hospital and its Department of Pathology have effectively partnered with the Grant-A-Starr Foundation (GASF). The Foundation has contributed more than $400,000 to TCH Pathology during the first generation of this project. This investment has made a huge difference, impacting hundreds of children already in Houston. Thanks to this support, we have implemented 13 new molecular diagnostic tests for rapid detection of respiratory viruses (including influenza H1N1), bacteria causing intestinal infections, viruses causing meningitis, and improved detection of HIV in children. Many children have been saved and treated effectively by having the right diagnosis at the right rime. The rapid response to the influenza H1N1 pandemic in 2009 highlighted the ability of our enhanced diagnostic R&D operation (supported by GASF) to help control the rapid spread of pandemic "flu" and manage these serious infections.


TCH and its Department of Pathology created the new Texas Children's Microbiome Center (TCMC) in February 2009. This center is expected to be a major game-changer in how we apply biomedical research to discover new infectious agents in children. This new paradigm is the result of 3 years of planning, and with the support of GASF, the TCMC became fully operational in October 2011 in our new home (10,000 sq ft in the Feigin Center at TCH). Dr. Ralph D. Feigin, former TCH physician-in-chief who passed away in 2008, provided the original inspiration for this project, and it is appropriate that our efforts are now housed in the Feigin Center at TCH. The TCMC is the new home of our GASF supported project - now renamed as Diagnosing Unknown Childhood Infections or the DUCI Project.


1. Airways and Lungs - Pneumonia, Bronchiolitis/Bronchitis and the Flu. The pulmonary microbiome will be a major focus for the center as we seek to find new infectious agents of respiratory tract infections. GASF support will be critical for this new initiative in the TCMC. Up to 50 percent of airway/lung infections are unexplained, and the clinical impact (number of children affected) of respiratory tract infections makes this topic possibly the most pressing challenge in pediatric infectious diseases today.
2. Sepsis and the bloodstream - This overwhelming systemic or "whole body" infection may stem from pneumonia or other causes of infections. We will examine the bloodstream and airway- lung-bloodstream connections for causes of unexplained infections.