Virology Research

Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CBEID) research on viruses that cause tropical and emerging infectious diseases, as well as those that can be used as biological weapons, can be divided into arthropod-borne (arboviruses) and rodent-borne viruses, and those that rely on other reservoir hosts including humans. All but the latter groups are zoonotic viruses that utilize wild animals as reservoir hosts, and cause disease in humans and domestic animals following “spillover” of zoonotic cycles, or adaptation to use humans or domestic animals as amplification hosts. The approaches used to study these viral diseases include basic research on viral replication and pathogenesis..

Many CBEID members are also engaged in research involving the biology and ecology of arthropod vectors, and the interrelationships between the vectors, hosts, and viral disease agents they transmit. Epidemiology (including molecular epidemiology) and epizootiology are also focus areas of research. Building on discoveries made in their basic research, many investigators are invested in the development of novel antiviral treatments, and new or improved vaccines for viral diseases. Computational and structural biology approaches employing advanced imaging techniques (such as cryoelectron microscopy in BSL3 containment) are also strengths of our virology research program.

Areas of Viral Research

Faculty Members

1. Arboviruses

  • Alphaviruses: Venezuelan,
    eastern, and western equine encephalitis viruses,
    chikungunya virus

Patricia Aguilar, Naomi Forrester, Slobodan Paessler, Stan Watowich, Scott Weaver

  • Bunyaviruses:
    Rift Valley fever virus, severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus

Patricia Aguilar, Dennis Bente, Alexander Freiberg,
Tetsuro Ikegami, Shinji Makino, Kent Tseng, Stan Watowich, Xuejie Yu

  • Flaviviruses:
    West Nile virus, dengue virus, yellow fever virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, Zika virus

Alan Barrett, Dennis Bente, David Beasley, 
Pei-Yong Shi, Nikos Vasilakis,
Tian Wang, Stan Watowich

2. Rodent-borne viruses

  • Arenaviruses: Machupo virus, Junin virus, Lassa virus

Patricia Aguilar, Tom Ksiazek, Slobodan Paessler

  • Bunyaviruses: hantaviruses

Tom Ksiazek

3. Non-zoonotic diseases

  • Viruses that cause hepatitis A, B and C

Nigel Bourne, Shelton Bradrick, Jiaren Sun, Kent Tseng

  • Influenza and other respiratory viruses (SARS and MERS coronaviruses)

Alexander Bukreyev, Jim LeDuc, Joan Nichols,
Shinji Makino, Kent Tseng

  • HIV

Benjamin Gelman, Monique Ferguson

4. Tropical and emerging viral pathogens

  • Filoviruses (Marburg virus, Ebola virus)

Alexander Bukreyev, Tom Geisbert, Chad Mire, Tom Ksiazek

  • Nipah and Hendra viruses

Alexander Freiberg, Tom Geisbert, Chad Mire, Tom Ksiazek

5. Epidemiology and vector ecology

Grant Hughes, Saravanan Thangamani, Scott Weaver

6. Antiviral treatments

Alan Barrett, Nigel Bourne, Shelton Bradrick, Mariano Garcia-Blanco, Pei-Yong Shi, Stan Watowich, Scott Weaver, Jia Zhou

7. Vaccine development

Alan Barrett, David Beasley, Dennis Bente, Nigel Bourne, Shinji Makino, Slobodan Paessler, Pei-Yong Shi, Stan Watowich, Scott Weaver

8. Structural biology

Werner Braun, Kyung Choi, Vsevolod Popov, Michael Sherman, Stan Watowich, Scott Weaver

Most of the funding for virology research programs comes from federally-funded investigator-initiated grants from the NIH and Department of Defense. The NIAID-sponsored Center of Excellence for Translational Research at UTMBalso funds the development of postexposure vaccines for filoviruses. Vaccine development is fostered on campus by the UTMB Sealy Center for Vaccine Development. Arthropod- and rodent-borne viruses are collected and studied by the World Reference Center for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses under the direction of Dr. Robert Tesh.

Some of the viruses under study in the CBEID are classified as biosafety level 4 agents that require special containment in the Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) and/or the Robert E. Shope, MD Laboratory in the John Sealy Pavilion for Infectious Diseases Research (also known as the Shope Laboratory). Additional facilities for virology research include the W. M. Keck Center for Virus Imaging located in the Blocker Medical Research Building, and BSL3 facilities in the GNL, Keiller Building, and Mary Moody Northen Pavilion.

Training of many virology graduate students and postdoctoral fellows is supported by the McLaughlin Fellowship Fund and the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, as well as the NIH T32 predoctoral training grant on biodefense.

Structural, physical, and quantitative biology are supported by the Sealy Center for Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics.

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