Infectious Disease Research

Virology

Dr. X.J. Meng
Research by Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor, includes the development of vaccines against emerging and zoonotic viral diseases, including Hepatitis E.

Our largest research program is focused on the study of viruses. Scientists on our Blacksburg and College Park campuses are studying a variety of viruses, including hepatitis E (human, swine, and avian), porcine circovirus (PCV), porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), rotavirus, and Newcastle Disease virus (NDV).

Funded by the NIH, USDA, Gates Foundation, and industry partners, projects involve investigation of virus structure and function, disease pathogenesis, host defense responses and development of control strategies. The latter employs a number of innovative approaches, such as effects of probiotics on rotavirus immunity, development of recombinant DNA and virus-like particle vaccines, evaluation of mucosal adjuvants and novel delivery systems to enhance the efficacy of mucosal vaccines using a gnotobiotic pig model, and use of NDV as a vehicle for delivery of viral antigens in development of human vaccines.

Bacteriology

Dr. Nammalwar Sriranganathan
Research by Dr. Nammalwar Sriranganathan, professor of bacteriology, targets infectious diseases, such as brucellosis, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis.

Our college has established a national reputation for accomplishments in the study of bacteria, particularly for the development of vaccines against brucellosis, a disease that causes spontaneous abortions in cattle. Current research involves continued work on Brucella vaccines and using them as platforms for second-generation vaccines for other diseases, such as tuberculosis and paratuberculosis.

Other projects focus on the pathogenesis, diagnosis and control of Histophilus somni, Haemophilus parasuis, Pasteurella multocida, and Francisella tularensis; the use of photogenic biosensors in diagnosis of infectious diseases; and methods of targeted drug delivery using nanoparticles as carriers.

Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases

The Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases (CMMID) is comprised of faculty, staff, and students from our college and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine who have a shared interest in cooperative research and scholarship related to infectious diseases.

The center coordinates research, instruction, and outreach activities involved with understanding the disease processes that affect both animal and human health, and supports the continued advancement of the science and technology of disease intervention strategies.

Learn more about the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases.

Faculty Research Team

Andrea Bertke

Andrea Bertke, PhD
Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases
Department of Population Health Sciences

Research focus: Comparing the mechanisms by which HSV-1 and HSV-2 establish latent infection and reactivate to cause different presentations and outcomes of recurrent disease, and the role of the autonomic nervous system in these processes.

Clayton Caswell

Clayton Caswell, PhD
Assistant Professor of Bacteriology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Roles of small regulatory RNAs (AbcR1 and AbcR2) in the biology of Brucella spp., mechanism of interactions between bacteria and hosts, and common regulatory pathways in related bacteria.

Thomas Inzana

Thomas Inzana, PhD
Tyler J. and Francis F. Young Chair of Bacteriology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Bacterial pathogens, including the select agents Francisella tularensis and Burkholderia mallei, MRSA, and the bovine respiratory pathogen Histophilus somni, the latter as a model to study biofilm formation in the natural host.

Tanya LeRoith

Tanya LeRoith, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVP
Assistant Professor of Pathology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Immunopathogenesis of viral diseases and how viruses modulate the immune system to cause disease.

David Lindsay

David Lindsay, PhD
Professor of Parasitology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Toxoplasma gondii and toxoplasmosis and its influence on human and animal health, protozoan diseases of livestock, such as neosporosis, and developing vaccines to protect animals and people from protozoan parasites.

Sarah McDonald

Sarah McDonald, PhD
Assistant Professor of Virology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
Dual appointment: Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute

Research focus: Acquiring fundamental mechanistic information about RNA virus biology that can be applied to the prevention and treatment of disease with a primary focus on rotaviruses, their lifecycle, and tracking rotavirus genome changes during its spread in the human population.

Learn more about the McDonald Laboratory.

X.J. Meng

XJ Meng, M.D., PhD
University Distinguished Professor, Molecular Virology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Molecular mechanisms of viral replication and pathogenesis and the development of vaccines against emerging and zoonotic viral diseases, including Hepatitis E.

Learn more about the Meng Laboratory.

Siba Samal

Siba K. Samal, PhD
Associate Dean and Chair
Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Maryland

Research focus: Molecular characterization of new and emerging avian paramyxoviruses, engineering avian paramyxoviruses as vaccine vectors against animal and human pathogens, and development of vaccines against avian paramyxoviruses using reverse genetics system.

Nammalwar Sriranganathan

Nammalwar Sriranganathan, BVSc, MVSc, PhD, Diplomate ACVM
Professor of Bacteriology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Develop alternate treatment strategies by improving the bioavailability of therapeutic agents and by targeting specific cells using block-copolymers and amorphous nanoparticles. Infectious diseases targeted in his research include brucellosis, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis.

Sharon Witonsky

Sharon Witonsky, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM
Associate Professor, Equine Field Service
Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences

Research focus: Host immune response to infectious diseases, involving both Brucella and Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis.

Lijuan Yuan

Lijuan Yuan, PhD
Associate Professor of Virology & Immunology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Animal models for human enteric viral diseases. Currently using gnotobiotic pig models of human rotavirus and norovirus infection and disease to study mechanism of immune modulation by probiotics.

Learn more about the Yuan Laboratory.

Anne Zajac

Anne Zajac, DVM, MS, PhD
Professor of Parasitology
Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology

Research focus: Gastrointestinal parasites, especially host-parasite relationships and control of nematodes of grazing animals. Giardia infection in dogs and cats.