Congenital, genital & transplant-acquired infections

Human cytomegalo virus (HCMV) is one of nine herpesviruses that infect humans. Primary infection usually occurs at an early age via bodily fluids, and is followed by latency for life. HCMV is present in an estimated 60% of older adults in developed countries, and may be even higher elsewhere. Infection is often inapparent, but can be problematic in certain people, especially those who have immature or impaired immune systems.

There are two situations of particular clinical prominence: HCMV can cause serious disease in babies infected before birth, and is a major cause of congenital infections worldwide, which can lead to permanent developmental or neurological impairments. HCMV is also a leading cause of morbidity in solid organ and bone marrow transplant patients, due to reactivation of latent virus in the recipient or sometimes to primary infection via the donor organ.

In the same viral sub-family as HCMV, human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) integrates into the genome of about 1% of people. The effects of transplanting HHV6 infected organs is unknown; likewise the longterm health issues associated with HHV6 are not known.

Human papillomaviruses cause a range of diseases from common warts on the hands to a number of cancers, including cervical cancer, the third most common cancer in women worldwide. There is a clear clinical need to develop tests to identify cervical disease that will progress to cancer from cervical disease that will not.

Work in this programme seeks to:

  • Sequence whole HCMV genomes from clinical samples, even those with very low viral loads
  • Relate the diversity, evolution and strain dynamics of HCMV to clinical outcome in transplant recipients
  • Determine the functions of non-coding RNAs as possible targets for the development of antiviral drugs
  • Develop a pipeline for sequencing HHV6 genomes and relate this to the consequences of inherited chromosomally integrated HHV6
  • Identify RNA and protein biomarkers to detect HPV infection and virus activity

Programme members

Andrew Davison

Programme Leader

 

Sheila Graham

Professor of Molecular Virology

 

Ruth Jarrett

Professor of Molecular Pathology