Wednesday, November 11, 2015

UIS professors use crowdfunding to support research on Hepatitis C in central Illinois homeless

Researchers at the University of Illinois Springfield are using crowdfunding for the first time to support their research. Money raised will be used to study Hepatitis C in the central Illinois homeless population.

The two professors plan to test members of the homeless populations in Bloomington, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria and Springfield to determine the number of people infected with the virus and conduct RNA genotype testing to study the transmission of the disease.

“It is our hope that timely and effective treatment of Hepatitis C in the homeless population could potentially stop further virus transmission,” said Kanwal Alvarez, UIS assistant professor of biology.

Alvarez and Josiah Alamu, UIS associate professor of public health, are leading the study along with Dr. Janak Koirala, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. They are supported by several graduate and undergraduate students at UIS.

In order to fund their research, they must raise at least $500 with the ultimate goal of raising more than $2,000 by mid-December.

“It’s unusual to ask the public for direct help in funding our research,” said Alamu. “However, the research we are doing is very expensive. It costs almost $20 just to test one homeless person for Hepatitis C.”

Money raised through the crowdfunding effort will be used to purchase rapid testing kits and other equipment needed to conduct the research.

“There’s no question the research we are doing will benefit the central Illinois homeless population,” said Alvarez. “A majority of individuals with acute Hepatitis C don’t know they are infected and are never diagnosed, which poses a greater threat to public health.”

Hepatitis C viral infection is a serious emerging infectious disease in the United States. Homeless people who report life-time drug use– cocaine, crack, and methamphetamines—are more likely to have Hepatitis C infections.

“This type of scientific research has the potential to encourage early identification of homeless and impoverished individuals who are positive with Hepatitis C and thus refer them to seek appropriate health care,” said Alamu.

If you would like to help support Hepatitis C research in the central Illinois homeless population, you are asked to donate at

For more information, please contact Kanwal Alvarez at 217/206-8567 or or Josiah Alamu at 217/206-8485 or

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