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6.21.2016

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Ophthalmologist Awarded $60,000 Knights Templar Career Starter Grant

Kara M. Cavuoto, M.D., assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has received a Pediatric Ophthalmology Career Starter Grant from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc.

Cavuoto is a pediatric ophthalmologist at Bascom Palmer, part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, who specializes in children’s eye disorders. The $60,000 award will be used for Cavuoto’s research project, “The Evolution and Complexity of Pediatric Ocular Surface Microbiome.”

Using established and innovative technologies, her research will investigate when and how the bacteria of the eye in infants evolve from a few different species without antibiotic resistance into a complex network of species that are antibiotic-resistant in young adults. This area of research has not previously been well-documented.

“Results from this study will be significant, not only in developing a profile of the ocular surface microbiome, but also in providing fundamental new knowledge regarding the age-dependent pattern of microbial colonization,” said Cavuoto. “It will lend insight on the ocular surface as a reservoir for potential pathogens, laying the foundation for future antiseptic interventional studies. Manipulation of the microbiome may be an important target for future disease prevention and treatment.”

Bacteria play an important role in maintaining health and preventing disease throughout the human body, including the ocular surface. Bacteria are likely to gain antibiotic resistance during childhood.

Cavuoto was presented the award on May 31 by Sir Knight Henry A. Adams, Right Eminent Department Commander, and Sir Knight Brett A. Gordon, Ph.D., of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation.

Her research will provide an essential key in understanding the microbiome of the individual patient as a whole, having implications for systemic health and playing an important role in future ocular therapies.

Much of Cavuoto’s work will take place within Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s Ocular Microbiology Laboratory. This research core collaborates with doctors, researchers and scientists in a wide range of studies and projects related to the epidemiology, pathobiology and prevention of ocular infections.

Darlene Miller, D.H.sc., research associate professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer and Scientific Director of the Ocular Microbiology Laboratory, is the preceptor of the Knights Templar award.

Contributing to Cavuoto’s research is Jorge Maestre-Mesa, M.D., Ph.D., a molecular biology expert at Bascom Palmer, and Vittorio Porciatti, D.Sc., holder of the James L. Knight Professorship in Ophthalmology and Vice Chair of Research for Bascom Palmer.

The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is a Masonic charity sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar. Since its incorporation in 1956, the foundation has given more than $142 million in support of research, patient care, and education, with $23 million spent on research in pediatric ophthalmology and ophthalmic genetics. The Foundation is committed to supporting research consistent with its mission “to improve vision through research, education, and supporting access to care.”

The Career Starter Research Grant is awarded to clinical and basic researchers focused on the prevention and cure of potentially blinding diseases in infants and children.

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