The Arbovirus Pathogenesis research group moved to The Pirbright Institute from the University of Edinburgh in 2012. Through its research on virus infections of arthropods, pathogenesis of arboviral encephalitis and arthralgia in mammals, arthropod cell cultures and tick-borne pathogens, the group maintains close links with an extensive network of collaborators within the UK and internationally.
Our research in the Arbovirus Pathogenesis group aims to understand arbovirus interactions with both arthropod and mammalian cells and organ systems; it includes mosquito and tick-borne viruses and focusses on the mosquito-borne alphaviruses Semliki Forest virus (SFV) and chikungunya virus (CHIKV), mosquito-borne bunyaviruses including Rift Valley fever virus (RVF), and the tick-borne flaviviruses including tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) and Langat virus (LGTV).
Questions being addressed include:
- Why are arboviruses generally cytopathic (kill the host cells) in most mammalian cells but persistent and non-cytopathic in arthropod cells?
- Why are many alphaviruses non-cytopathic and persistent in specialised mammalian cells including neurons and macrophages?
- Is infection of macrophages (immune cells) required for the clinical arthralgia (joint pain) and persistence of chikungunya virus?
- What are the innate immune defence systems activated and antagonised by alphavirus and flavivirus infections in mosquito and tick cells and in mammalian cells?
- How does co-infection with intracellular bacteria affect tick-borne virus replication and tick cell innate immune defence responses?
- Can mosquito transmission of Rift Valley fever be prevented by genetic modification of the virus?
Our current research projects include:
- Understanding the molecular mechanisms of cellular RNA degradation by pathogenic viruses
- Targeting the inhibition of arboviruses in mosquito cells
- Discovering the requirements for alphavirus replication within the host cell, including lipid metabolism and transcription
- Understanding the enhancement of viral pathogenesis in the central nervous system and the role of gold compounds
- Finding the molecular determinants of alphavirus pathogenesis
- Generating targeted inhibition of CHIKV in macrophages
- Propagating obligate intracellular tick-borne bacterial pathogens in tick cells
- A two-year Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Reseach Council (BBSRC) funded partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya, aimed at generating collaborative research proposals focussing on the ILRI Tick Unit, started in June 2015, and a BBSRC-funded industrial CASE studentship on virus mutability starts in October 2015.