Microbiology & Immunology Adjunct Faculty
Anthony Griffiths, Ph.D.
EducationPh.D., University of Cambridge (Queens’ College)
Postdoctoral Training: Harvard Medical School
Our laboratory is interested in viral zoonoses, specifically how highly pathogenic viruses cross between species. We focus on herpes B virus (BV), which naturally infects macaque monkeys but can infect humans. In monkeys, BV causes a self-limiting disease with cold sore-like lesions. However, in humans BV causes rapidly ascending encephalitis that is fatal to approximately 80% of untreated infected individuals. Even with timely antiviral chemotherapy fatality is only reduced to approximately 20%. BV is classified as a Risk Group 4 agent and may only be propagated in BSL-4 containment. MicroRNAs are key regulators of gene expression. Recent data have suggested that virus encoded microRNAs are important for virus pathogenicity. We have reported that BV encodes several microRNAs; currently, BV is the only Risk Group 4 agent known to encode microRNAs. Our latest studies have used deep sequencing technology to show that BV encodes additional microRNAs that were not initially detected. Interestingly, none of the BV-encoded microRNAs have any sequence similarity to herpes simplex virus-encoded microRNAs, despite a relatively high degree of sequence similarity between their genomic sequences. We are addressing the hypothesis that the BV-encoded microRNAs interact differently with human cells versus monkey cells and are important for the differences in pathogenesis between BV-infected monkeys and humans.
The laboratory also has interest in herpes B virus surveillance, asking whether people who frequently come into very close contact with macaque monkeys have an increased likelihood of herpes B virus infection and disease. This project has focussed on Malaysia and Bangladesh. The laboratory is also working toward developing a vaccine to protect monkeys from herpes B virus infection, which will ultimately help protect humans.
The filovirus family includes the ebolavirus and marburgvirus genera, which are associated with hemorrhagic fevers and high mortality. They are also zoonotic agents. Our work in this area combines classical virology and next-generation sequencing to understand the adaptive evolution of these viruses as they infect a new host.
The following students are from the M&I Track:
- Melanie Amen