The University of Maryland schools of dentistry and medicine have won a five-year $10.7 million federal grant to study the causes, prevention and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases.

The schools had just finished a $12 million five-year grant to study to study STDs. Going forward, the researchers specifically will study the genetics of chlamydia and gonorrhea in an effort to reveal those who may be particularly susceptible to disease or extreme disease.

Chlamydia is the most common bacterial infections in the United States with 2.8 million cases annually. There are 820,000 gonorrhea cases annually. And together they are responsible for most of the cases of pelvic inflammatory diseases that cause female infertility and potentially life-threatening conditions such as ectopic pregnancies.

“This grant is particularly significant because it is the first time that a comprehensive systems biology, or 'multi-omics,' approach will be utilized to conduct STD research with the ultimate goal of developing knowledge to prognose, diagnose, prevent and treat sexually transmitted infection and disease,” said Jacques Ravel, the co-principal investigator on the study.

“By looking at how human genetics and the microbiome affect and influence infections in humans, we can gain a much better understanding of how to protect against these types of infection, which is critical for improving public health,” said Ravel, professor of microbiology and immunology and associate director for genomics at the Institute for Genome Sciences in Maryland’s medical school.

The research will help identify who is most susceptible to severe disease, even when there are no symptoms, and discover new ways to prevent and treat STDs.

The researchers will work on several projects with other scientists from several universities including Johns Hopkins.