Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is usually acquired during childhood and does not normally cause symptoms in healthy people, but can be the source of disease, long-term disability and even death in children who acquire this virus from their mother during pregnancy. In addition, CMV can cause substantial morbidity and organ rejection in transplant recipients, whose immune system is significantly depleted as part of standard preparations for accepting donor organs. Because of this, the development of new antiviral therapies and of an anti-CMV vaccine is urgently needed.
Once acquired, CMV persists within infected people for the rest of their life in a dormant form, called latency. Periodically, this virus re-emerges from latency in a process called reactivation, and can spread to new individuals. The ability of this virus to remain latent for long periods of time without ever being eliminated by the immune system renders the development of novel treatment and prevention therapies particularly difficult.
CMV transmission is thought to occur by contact between virus shed in the urine or saliva of a donor and cells within the oral cavity of a recipient. A major goal of our research is to identify the type of oral mucosal cells targeted by CMV during transmission, and the viral and cellular factors supporting infection initiation and progression, with the ultimate goal of developing innovative vaccines to prevent CMV transmission.
CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells and their progeny are important sites of CMV latency and reactivation, as well as of lytic infection. Using single-cell transcriptomics tools, we seek to identify the viral and cellular mediators of infection of different types of myeloid cell populations, to isolate new targets for antiviral intervention.
Thursday, October 17, 2019 8:46 AM