Dr. Kevin L. Legge Receives National Institutes of Health (NIH) Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21)

June 3, 2016

Dr. Kevin L. Legge received a two-year NIH R21 grant entitled, 'Chronic Alcohol Alteration of Influenza-Specific CD8 T Cell Immunity and Protection'. Dr. Legge's laboratory is investigating how chronic alcohol consumption alters the immunity and severity of respiratory infections. Interestingly, Dr. Legge's previous studies have indicated that chronic alcohol consumption increases both influenza virus associated morbidity and mortality and that this increased severity of disease is related to defects or alterations in influenza-specific CD8 T cell responses. Importantly, these findings have been supported by a recent study in humans which showed that heavy alcohol use is a risk factor for severe outcomes during influenza virus infections. Therefore, Dr Legge’s long-range goal is to determine the lesion within the respiratory adaptive immune response following chronic alcohol consumption in order to allow targeted therapies. Within this grant his goal is to determine the contributions of the alcohol induced environment vs T cell intrinsic lesions in the reduced CD8 T cell immunity observed during primary influenza virus infections of the chronic alcohol exposed lung. Further as the influenza reactive CD8 T cell response is made up of both newly recruited naïve T cells as well as existing memory T cells, this application will be the first to determine how chronic alcohol consumption alters the existing memory CD8 T cells, that have been induced by vaccinations and infections prior to the chronic alcohol consumption, which are critical to control of the infection.