Host-pathogen interactions, and Cytomegalovirus latency and pathogenesis.
Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) remains a major clinical complication in a number of settings including immune-suppressed transplant patients and following congenital infection. The ability of HCMV, like all herpes viruses, to establish a lifelong latent infection of the host results in the threat posed by HCMV as twofold: Transplant patients are at risk following primary infection or following the reactivation of the latent virus that resides in the recipient.
Our group is part of the CMV research group (with Prof Griffiths) and is focussed on dissecting the molecular basis of HCMV latency and reactivation as well as the role of host cell functions during lytic infection. Specifically, we are investigating the contribution of both viral and cellular functions to the maintenance of latency with particular emphasis on how cell signalling pathways are important during both the establishment and reactivation of the latent infection.
Alongside these studies we investigate the natural history of HCMV in solid organ transplant patients. Here the focus is to understand the role of viral genetics and host immunity in the onset of viraemia in these patients with a view to a clearer understanding of why certain individuals are at increased risk of HCMV pathogenesis.
It is hoped that a thorough understanding of the HCMV biology and pathogenesis will be instructive for our ongoing efforts to develop new vaccination strategies against HCMV.