Grant supports research on leptospirosis in Hawai’i wetlands, fishponds

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Hawaiʻi Pacific University alumnus Solomon Hayes with research poster. (Photo courtesy Hawaiʻi Pacific University)

Hawai‘i Pacific University has received a $50,000 grant from IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence to research the survival and growth of leptospirosis in Hawai‘i wetlands taro patches (lo‘i) and fishponds (loko i‘a).

The disease affects vulnerable populations, impacts more than one million people per year, and kills 60,000 annually. Leptospirosis remains to be a significant disease in Hawai‘i with at least 30 cases reported annually. But due to a wide range of symptoms, the confirmed cases of leptospirosis is believed to be severely underdiagnosed in Hawai‘i.

L-R: Carmella Vizza, Ph.D. headshot and a student conducting research. (Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi Pacific University)

Native Hawaiians who are engaged in indigenous practices are at higher risks of contracting leptospirosis due to their time spent in these freshwater ecosystems. For those who are engaged in lo‘i and loko i‘a practices it is important to provide knowledge of the local ecology of leptospirosis, public health programs available, and clinical practices for early diagnosis. 


“The goal of this grant is to build a foundation so we can grow a transdisciplinary research program in Hawai‘i,” said Hawaiʻi Pacific University assistant professor Carmella Vizza, Ph.D., principal investigator of the grant. “Many of the native Hawaiian community organizations are trying to restore lo‘i and loko i‘a with the idea of achieving food sovereignty. With this research grant, we are aiming to see where we find the bacteria that causes leptospirosis (Leptospira) in different Hawaiian wetland environments, specifically sites undergoing biocultural restoration.”

To read the full story on Hawaiʻi Pacific University’s ‘Ohana Daily News, click here.


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