Our laboratory aims to understand the molecular basis of viral zoonotic transmission and viral pathogenesis. To this end we are focussing on herpes B virus and filoviruses; it is thought that these viruses do not cause significant disease in their natural host, but cause devastating disease in humans.
Herpes B virus (BV) is the macaque equivalent of herpes simplex virus (cold sores) and in macaque colonies, most animals are infected. In monkeys, BV causes a minor self-limiting disease. In contrast, human infection with BV frequently causes a severe brain infection (encephalitis) that is typically fatal. Due to the 80 percent mortality rate in infected humans, BV may only be propagated in a BSL-4 laboratory.
Our major area of interest is virus-encoded microRNAs, which appear to be important for pathogenesis. We also have an interest in the mechanisms used by this virus to enter cells and how this differs from herpes simplex virus.
The filovirus family includes the ebolaviruses and marburgvirus, which are associated high case fatality rates in humans. The natural reservoir for these viruses is thought to be bats. While there is limited information describing filovirus infections of bats, it has been suggested that they may not develop a fatal illness. We are using a variety of techniques to probe the molecular biology of these viruses.
Melanie Amen (Graduate Student)
Kendra Alfson (Graduate Student)
Laura Avena (Research Assistant)