The research program of the Arbovirus Laboratories focuses on basic and applied field and laboratory studies examining the interaction of mosquito and tick-borne arboviruses, arthropod vectors, and vertebrate hosts, and how this interaction impacts transmission intensity and perpetuation of the pathogen. The research program includes studies with alpha- and flavi- viruses, examining intrinsic (genetic) and extrinsic (temperature, dose, time after infection) factors affecting vectorial capacity. Our studies are currently focusing on the flavivirus, West Nile virus (WNV), which, like all flaviviruses, is a positive sense, single-stranded RNA virus. Research addresses the molecular epidemiology of this virus over time and space, as well as that of eastern equine (EEEV; alphavirus). WNV is being studied intensively to elucidate the virus-vector interactions and viral molecular biology that led to rapid evolution in North America. Research is underway to elucidate mechanisms by which arboviruses overwinter in temperate environments, particularly EEEV in northeastern USA. Other studies are ongoing that examine factors that constrain or enhance viral evolution and adaptation to arthropod and avian hosts. In particular, the lab is focusing on the role of intrahost viral diversity and how this impacts viral fitness.
Laura D. Kramer