Department of Microbiology and Immunology
-There are two main research interests in the Hay lab:
1. Varicella zoster virus (VZV)
This human virus causes chickenpox and shingles, but we have no clear idea of the mechanisms through which disease is caused. Our work focuses on a molecular approach to these mechanisms. For example, we have identified sequences in the promoter of the major viral gene regulatory protein which on the one hand allow the protein to be expressed only in neural cells and on the other hand allow self-regulation of transcription. In collaborative work with colleagues at Stanford University, we have shown that the major transactivator protein is a strong T-cell immunogen; this could be a candidate for a novel VZV vaccine.
2. Molecular epidemiology of EDPs (especially dangerous pathogens)
We are studying three important viruses that cause serious disease in humans: crimean-congo hemorrhagic fever virus, hantaviruses and tick-borne encephalitis virus. Our approach is to travel to countries where we know or suspect that theses viruses circulate. There we collect potential animal reservoirs, insect vectors (where applicable) and human sera. We run assays for the immune status of animals and humans with respect to these viruses, and sequence viral genomes from animals and vectors. These data are assembled as phylogeographic information and used as risk assessment tools. We recently found new tick-borne viruses in Kyrgyzstan and hantaviruses in Siberia. We plan to revisit Kazakhstan in 2011.
These projects are supported by NIH and by the US and UK Defense Departments