Areas of Expertise
- Innate Immunity
- Viral Disease Pathogenesis and Immunity
- Neonatal Immunity
- Intestinal Microbiome
- Dietary-Immune Interactions
- Gnotobiotic Animal Models
Research Focus: My research is focused on the pathogenesis, epidemiology and immunity to enteric, emerging and zoonotic viruses with the emphasis on coronaviruses- (CoVs) and rotaviruses (RVs). Rotavirus is the leading cause of childhood diarrhea and mortality worldwide and an important pathogen in young animals; CoVs represent a continuous public health threat evidenced by recent trans- boundary spread and pandemics of animal (porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, deltacoronavirus) and human (severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV, SARS-CoV, Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2) CoVs. My recent results using the gnotobiotic pig model demonstrated that coordinate involvement of different innate immune cells is critical to mount optimal immune responses against human RVs. Another recent study in my lab using intestinal organoids revealed that cell surface glycoconjugates play an important role in RV pathogenesis and that commensal and probiotic bacteria can regulate their availability. I further utilize these modela to understand the influences of various commensal and probiotic bacteria and the microbiota, as well as of pathological conditions, including vitamin A deficiency, malnutrition and intestinal dysbiosis that compromise innate immune responses to mucosal pathogens, further affecting protective efficacy of mucosal vaccines.
I also have a long-standing interest and extensive training and expertise in molecular virology and in comparative molecular characterization of emerging human and animal CoVs. The results of these studies demonstrate that porcine RVs currently circulating in swine may possess zoonotic potential and may represent potential threats to public health. Additionally, recent results confirm complex and fast evolution of different CoVs of significant economic impact and public health concern, which is best exemplified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. My lab conducts research to understand the role of pre-existing antibodies against human CoVs associated with common colds in SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis (STOP-COVID program). Such information is critical for development of accurate diagnostic tools, control measures, understanding mechanisms of interspecies transmission/evolution of viral pathogens, and for enhancement of the immune responses at the mucosal interphase. Overall, these research projects contribute to both basic science and translational biomedical research.