I am a virologist studying the biology of single stranded positive sense RNA viruses, including poliovirus, hepatitis C virus and deformed wing virus of honeybees. My current research focuses on the evolution, replication and pathogenesis of these viruses.
Poliovirus no longer causes significant human mortality but is an exceptionally well characterised virus we use to study the molecular mechanism of recombination, an important evolutionary process exhibited by many other single stranded postiive sense RNA viruses. Our recent studies have demonstrated that recombination is a biphasic process, involving both a strand exchange recombination event and a secondary resolution event. The characteristics of intermediates in this event may explain 'evolution by duplication' in RNA viruses, in which partial regions of the genome become duplicated and then evolve independently.
Deformed wing virus (DWV) is the most important virus infecting honeybees and is responsible for the majority of overwintering colony losses. DWV is transmitted during feeding by the ectoparasitic mite Varroa to developing honeybee pupae. We have shown that mite-exposed pupae contain a near-clonal population of DWV present at very high levels. In contrast, pupae that have not been exposed to mites contain a low level of a highly diverse DWV population. We are currently investigating the molecular pathogenesis of the virulent strain of DWV and developing strategies to control the virus.
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