The focus of several investigators at the Department is in the virology area, including Drs. George Belov, Weizhong Li, Siba Samal, Ekaterina Viktorova, Yanjin Zhang, and Xiaoping Zhu. Research topics of these investigators include the molecular mechanisms of viral infection, the role of host factors in the pathogenesis of hepatitis E virus (HEV), herpesvirus, influenza virus, paramyxovirus, picornavirus, and porcine respiratory and reproductive viruses (PRRSV), and the development of new vaccine candidates and anti-viral therapeutics.
Picornaviruses include important pathogens of humans and animals, such as foot and mouth disease, poliovirus, enterovirus D68, and many others — research by Drs. Belov and Viktorova focus on different aspects of virus-host interaction, mechanisms of viral replication, and the development of novel vaccines and anti-viral therapeutics. Dr. Samal joined the Department in 1988 after an outstanding training in Plum Island Animal Disease Center at the USDA. He is investigating molecular determinants and mechanisms of paramyxovirus virulence and pathogenesis. Using a reverse genetics system, his lab has engineered avian paramyxoviruses as vaccine vectors or oncolytic agents against animal and human diseases. Dr. Samal has received several US patents based on his innovative research. Dr. Zhang is investigating the pathogenesis and host response of the PRRSV and HEV. Dr. Zhang investigates the mechanisms of virus-cell interactions of HEV and PRRSV and has developed a novel PRRSV vaccine that allows the vaccine to induce interferon signaling in vivo. His vaccine has already received US patent. The research focuses of Drs. Zhu and Li are studying mechanisms of viral immune pathogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and are developing influenza and RSV mucosal vaccines. Their mucosal vaccination strategy has received US patents and licenses. Additionally, Dr. Zhu and Dr. Li study viral protein interferes with host innate and adaptive immune responses.