Infectious Disease & Microbial Systems
Influenza, HIV, Newcastle Disease and the common cold are just a few types of infectious disease rampant across the globe today. “Infectious disease” refers to an illness caused when a bacterial, viral, fungal or protozoan pathogen is spread via physical contact, contaminated food, body fluids, fomites, airborne inhalation or vector organisms. While the Vector-borne Disease Research Group at Virginia Tech focuses on infectious diseases spread by arthropods, other Fralin researchers study ways that infectious diseases spread via animal, food, bacteria, and other types of human contact, and work towards the development of novel therapeutic approaches to ameliorate the effects of the transmission.
Fralin-affiliated microbiologists focus on the epidemiology and ecology of food-borne pathogens and develop methods to mitigate the deleterious effects of pathogens in minimally processed foods and during food storage.
Fralin virologists studying zoonotic diseases—those transmitted from animals to humans—also work to develop vaccines against these diseases. Vaccines recently developed by Fralin-affiliated researchers seek to inhibit viruses, including those causing hepatitis E, Newcastle disease, and porcine circovirus virusassociated disease,as well as bacteria, such as those causing brucellosis, anthrax and bubonic plague Researchers are also developing vaccine adjuvants that increase vaccine efficacy. Such targets include the vaccine for rotavirus, a diarrheal disease that kills more than 500,000 children per year. Another innovative approach taken by Fralin researchers involves the use of viruses to target and destroy cancer cells.
In 2016, the American Society for Virology will hold its annual conference at Virginia Tech.
Fralin bacteriologists are studying such topics as how bacteria sense and respond to environmental changes, the role of biofilms in pathogenesis, and the effect of the environment on a host’s susceptibility to pathogens.