Author Interviews, Infections, NIH / 30.06.2022 Interview with: Nihal Altan-Bonnet, Ph.D. Chief of the Laboratory of Host-Pathogen Dynamics NHLBI  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings? Response: Enteric viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus are responsible for nearly 1.5 billion global infections per year resulting in gastrointestinal illnesses and sometimes leading to death in the very young, in the elderly and in the immunocompromised. These viruses have been thought to traditionally infect and replicate only in the intestines, then shed into feces and transmit to others via the oral-fecal route (e.g. through ingestion of fecal contaminated food items). Our findings reported in Nature, using animal models of norovirus, rotavirus and astrovirus infection, challenge this traditional view and reveal that these viruses can also replicate robustly in salivary glands, be shed into saliva in large quantities and transmit through saliva to other animals. In particular we also show infected infants can transmit these viruses to their mothers mammary glands via suckling and this leads to both an infection in their mothers mammary glands but also a rapid immune response by the mother resulting in a surge in her milk antibodies. These milk antibodies may play a role in fighting the infection in their infants .  (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, JAMA / 16.04.2021 Interview with: Emily Sickbert-Bennett PhD, MS, CIC, FSHEA Director, Infection Prevention, UNC Hospitals Administrative Director, Carolina Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, UNC Hospitals Associate Professor of Medicine-Infectious Diseases, UNC School of Medicine Associate Professor of Epidemiology, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health What is the background for this study? Response: Recently public health officials have recommended doubling masks, although the initial study conducted by CDC investigators  was limited in type and combinations of masks tested, so our study compared fitted filtration efficiency of commonly available masks worn, singly, doubled or in combination. What are the main findings? Response:  Doubling of masks can improve the fitted filtration efficiency of masks, that is how well masks protect you from inhalation of aerosols from others.  (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, Dental Research / 21.10.2020 Interview with: Craig Meyers, PhD Department of Microbiology and Immunology Pennsylvania State College of Medicine Hershey, PA What is the background for this study? Response: As nasal and oral cavities are major points of entry and transmission for human coronaviruses our team of physicians and scientists (Craig Meyers, Janice Milici, Samina Alam, David Quillen, David Goldenberg and Rena Kass of Penn State College of Medicine and Richard Robison of Brigham Young University) were interested in testing common over-the-counter oral antiseptics and mouthwashes for their efficacy to inactivate infectious human coronavirus, which is structurally similar to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. While we wait for a vaccine for COVID-19 to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed. We chose products that are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections / 20.12.2019 Interview with: Konstans Wells, PhD Lecturer in Biosciences Swansea University What is the background for this study? Response:  Cross‐species transmission of harmful viruses between animals and humans is a major source of infectious diseases and a considerable global public health burden. We assessed patterns of virus sharing among a large diversity of mammals, including humans and domestic species. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurological Disorders / 12.07.2019 Interview with: Prof. Dr. Patrick Küry Dept. of Neurology Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf Germany What is the background for this study? How do these viruses in our DNA differ from others such as the herpes family of viruses? Response: The background of our current two published studies is elucidating the role of endogenous retroviruses such as the HERV-W in contributing to neurological disease initiation and progression. Our new paper in PNAS (Kremer et al., PNAS 2019) describes a novel axon damage scenario for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in which a "toxic" protein called ENV from HERV-W instructs so called microglial cells in the human brain to attack and damage myelinated axons. Our second review article (Gruchot et al., Front Genet 2019) summarizes currently known effects on endogenous retroviruses exerted towards neural cells, that means cells other than the infiltrating immune cells. There is currently a shift of attention and research in the MS field in that resident neural cells such as oligodendrocytes, precursor cells, stem cells and microglial cells and their reactions are intensively investigated. HERVs are evolutionary acquired retroviruses (RNA viruses able to integrate into host DNA via reverse transcription from RNA to DNA) that were collected during evolution by our ancestors. Some of them remained in our genome (8% of our genome is HERV related) and in most cases appear to be non-functional, mutated or genetically silenced. A few of them, as for example HERV-W in MS or HERV-K in ALS, can apparently be activated, woken up so to say, and one of the mechanisms leading to activation might be an infection by Herpesviruses. Note that herpesviruses such as for example the Epstein Bar Virus (EBV) are long known suspected triggers of MS, however, a direct correlation could never be demonstrated. HERVs such as HERV-W might therefore constitute the missing link. (more…)
Author Interviews, Global Health, Infections, NEJM / 08.05.2019 Interview with: Birgit Nikolay PhD MATHEMATICAL MODELLING OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES Institut Pasteur What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Nipah virus was identified by the World Health Organization as an emerging infectious disease that may cause major epidemics if the pathogen evolves to become more transmissible, leading the organization to prioritize it for research to prevent future health emergencies. In the absence of efficient treatments or vaccines, the only way to control Nipah virus outbreaks is through targeted interventions that limit opportunities of spread. Designing such interventions is challenging in a context where transmission mechanisms remain poorly understood. The study provides important insights to better understand these mechanisms. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Nature / 28.02.2019 Interview with: bats-mattaeMatae Ahn,MD-PhD candidate Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme Duke-NUS Medical School What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Bats, as the only flying mammals, are ‘special’ in their ability to host many highprofile viruses without suffering from disease. Such viruses including Ebola virus, Nipah virus and SARS or MERS coronaviruses, are highly pathogenic and often lethal to humans or animals, but yet cause no or minimal disease in bats. In addition, they also live very long relative to their small body size, despite elevated metabolic rates. However, what makes them special is still unclear. In this study, we discovered dampened NLRP3-mediated inflammation in bats in response to both ‘sterile’ stressors and infection with three different types of zoonotic RNA viruses. We identified multiple molecular mechanisms of altered bat NLRP3, a critical regulator of virus-induced and age-related inflammation, as the cause. Importantly, the reduced inflammation had no effect on the viral loads, which suggests enhanced immune tolerance to infection in bats. Bats’ natural ability to dampen stress-related and virusinduced inflammation may be a key mechanism underlying their long lifespans and unique viral reservoir status.  (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, Nature, NIH, PLoS, Rheumatology / 16.04.2018 Interview with: John B. Harley, MD, PhD Professor and Director David Glass Endowed Chair Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) Department of Pediatrics University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Cincinnati, Ohio 45229 What is the background for this study? Response: Previous work has shown that Epstein-Barr virus infection is associated with systemic lupus erythematosus and studies of the origins of the autoimmune response have also suggested that the autoimmunity of this disease may originate with the immune response against this virus. In the meantime, many investigators have been studying the genetics of lupus over the past 25 years. They have found about 100 convincing genes that alter the risk of developing lupus. (more…)
Allergies, Asthma, Author Interviews, Pediatrics, Respiratory / 06.10.2017 Interview with: Giovanni Piedimonte, MD Steven and Nancy Calabrese Endowed Chair for Excellence in Pediatric Care, Research, and Education Professor & Chair of Pediatrics Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine Case Western Reserve University What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study proves that asthmatic children already have a hyperactive calcium channel that’s extremely sensitive to environmental triggers. If these children contract a virus, such as RSV, the hyperactive channel causes more severe symptoms that may require care in a hospital setting. When a child developed asthma or bronchitis in the past, doctors thought these conditions could only be triggered by environmental allergens. There was no explanation why two out of three children ages five and under who wheeze and cough – and still test negative for allergies. We needed to explore the mechanisms of the calcium molecule and the epithelial cells, which seem to trigger these symptoms without an allergic reaction. If the molecule’s behavior is producing the cough, we just need to figure out how to control the molecule to properly deactivate the cough mechanism in the asthmatic child (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections / 11.07.2016 Interview with: Hemilä Harri Hemilä, MD, PhD Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our meta-analysis of 3 randomized controlled trials on zinc acetate lozenges was motivated by an early trial which indicated that zinc lozenges might be more effective for patients with allergies. We found that allergy, sex, age, and ethnic bacground did not influence the effect of zinc acetate lozenges. Thus, the average effect of 3 day reduction in colds seems to be applicable for a wide range of common cold patients. (more…)
Author Interviews, Dengue, Infections, Inflammation, Zika / 22.06.2016 Interview with: Clive McKimmie PhD Research Fellow, Virus Host Interaction Team (VHIT), University of Leeds St James’ University Hospital Leeds UK What is the background for this study? Response: With the rapid spread of Zika in the Americas, attention has been drawn to this group of neglected mosquito-borne viral infections. The Zika virus is not alone in causing problems, others such as dengue and chikungunya viruses are infecting millions of people each year. Yet there’s little doctors can do to help people who get sick. When mosquitoes bite you they can transmit these disease causing viruses. We don’t understand what happens during the early stages of infection very well. However, it is known that the mosquito bite itself somehow helps the virus to infect your body. (more…)
AACR, Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Infections / 02.05.2016 Interview with: Anala Gossai BSc, MPH PhD candidate Department of Epidemiology Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire and co-authors What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Gossai et al: Polyomaviruses (PyV) are potentially tumorigenic viruses in humans. However, limited data exists on the population seroprevalence or longitudinal serostability of PyVs, and individual characteristics that relate to seropositivity. Further, PyVs may be associated with the occurrence of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – one of the most common malignancies in humans with increasing incidence reported in the US. In a US nested case-control study, BK and JC seroreactivity was measured on 113 SCC cases and 229 matched controls who had a prior keratinocyte cancer. Repeated serum samples from controls, and both pre- and post-diagnosis samples from a subset ofsquamous cell carcinoma cases, were also assayed. Antibody response against each PyV type was measured using multiplex serology of recombinantly expressed VP1 capsid proteins. Among controls, BK and JC seroreactivity was stable over time, and there was little evidence of seroconversion following SCC diagnosis among cases. Odds of squamous cell carcinoma  associated with seropositivity to each PyV type were estimated using conditional logistic regression. JC seropositivity prior to diagnosis was associated with an elevated risk of SCC (OR=2.5, 95% CI: 1.2-5.2).  (more…)
Author Interviews, Hand Washing, Infections / 21.04.2015 Interview with: Erwin Duizer, PhD Head of section Enteric Viruses Centre for Infectious Diseases Control National Institute for Public Health and the Environment The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Duizer: Hand hygiene is important for interrupting the transmission chain of viruses through hands. Alcohol-based hand disinfectants are widely used in hospitals and healthcare facilities, due to convenience, rapidity, and broad acceptance by healthcare personnel. The effectiveness of alcohol-based hand disinfectant has been shown for bacteria and enveloped viruses but their effectiveness in reducing transmission of non-enveloped viruses, such as norovirus, is less certain. Therefore we tested, in a joint project of the RIVM and Wageningen University, the virucidal activity of a propanol based product and an ethanol based product in quantitative carrier tests. Additionally, the virus reducing effect of hand washing (according to health care guidelines) and the use the propanol based product was tested in a quantitative finger pad test. (more…)
Author Interviews, HIV, Nature, Scripps / 04.03.2015

Dr. Michael Farzan PhD Vice Chairman Department of Immunology and Microbial Science Florida Campus The Scripps Research Interview with: Dr. Michael Farzan PhD Vice Chairman Department of Immunology and Microbial Science Florida Campus The Scripps Research Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Farzan: The key points are that HIV-1 needs two receptors – CD4 and CCR5 – to infect cells.  CD4’s primary job is to initially bind the viral entry protein, which upon CD4 binding, uncloaks its CCR5 binding site.   A number of years ago we observed that CCR5 had an unusual modification that was really important to HIV-1.  We later showed that antibodies – protein your body makes to protect from pathogens – mimics CCR5 by incorporating this modification.  We develop a peptide from one of these antibodies that mimics CCR5. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Farzan: By combined a soluble form of CD4 with this CCR5-mimicking peptide, we created a protein that neutralizes all HIV-1 isolates tested, including the hardest-to-stop viruses, as well as distantly related viruses found in monkeys.  It does so better than the best HIV-1 antibodies.  We expressed this protein using a commonly used gene-therapy vector, and showed that after a one-time inoculation we could protect from doses much higher than most humans are likely to see, and we did so 34 weeks after the inoculation. (more…)
Author Interviews, Infections, PNAS, University Texas / 28.01.2015

Christopher S. Sullivan, Ph.D. Associate Professor Dept. Molecular Biosciences The University of Texas at Austin Interview with: Christopher S. Sullivan, Ph.D. Associate Professor Dept. Molecular Biosciences The University of Texas at Austin and Jennifer Cox, lead author Graduate student in Dr. Sullivan’s laboratory. Jennifer Cox, lead author Graduate student in Dr. Sullivan’s laboratory. Jennifer Cox's Replies: MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Jennifer Cox: In the last decade, researchers have identified that many viruses encode small regulatory molecules known as microRNAs. Some viral microRNAs are able to manipulate host processes including stress responses, proliferation, and cell death. However, there are many viral microRNAs with unknown functions. Many of the viruses that encode microRNAs are associated with severe pathologies including various cancers so understanding the role of viral microRNAs can shed light on virus biology. For this study, we focused on identifying viral microRNAs that can regulate innate immune signaling for several reasons. First, all viruses have proteins to combat interferon signaling. Second, we have identified microRNAs from two diverse viruses (retro and annello) that can inhibit interferon signaling so we hypothesized that additional viral microRNAs will perform this same function. We screened ~70 viral microRNAs for the ability to regulate innate immune signaling and identified three herpesviruses, Epstein-Barr Virus, Kaposi’s Sarcoma Associated Virus, and Human Cytomegalovirus, that inhibit the interferon response. Epstein-Barr Virus, causes an estimated 200,000 cancers every year, including lymphomas, nasopharyngeal cancers and some stomach cancers. Interestingly, most of these cancers harbor latent EBV – a state of limited gene expression that produces no virus. microRNAs are one of the few viral gene product expressed during latency. Our further work identified that Epstein-Barr Virus, KSHV, and Human Cytomegalovirus have converged to inhibit interferon signaling in the same manner – through decreasing expression of a central hub of innate immune signaling, CREB binding protein (CBP). We show that this regulation conveys partial resistance to the negative effects of interferon treatment on an EBV+ lymphoma cell line. Additionally, removing the microRNA from a similar cell line increases the sensitivity to interferon. Interferon can be used in combination with other chemotherapies to treat lymphomas but varies in success. Our results may partially explain the variability seen in patients with EBV-associated cancers. (more…)