About the Infectious Diseases Unit

The Infectious Diseases Unit provides unique expertise and a collaborative setting for the study of infectious and immunologic diseases affecting humans, at the whole animal, organ, cellular, and molecular levels. The research projects in this unit include pathogenesis of viral infections (including SIV/ HIV, ZIKV, SARS-Cov-2, CHIKV, herpes, influenza), opportunistic infections, mucosal transmission, antiviral immunity, viral diagnostics, epidemiology,  prophylactics/vaccines, and antiviral therapies. Many of the experiments are preclinical studies directly related to prophylactic and therapeutic interventions that guide clinical trials.

Monkey Model of HIV

Macaques infected with simian or simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SIV/SHIV) develop a disease, called simian AIDS, that resembles HIV infection and AIDS in humans. Monkeys and humans have also similar physiology, drug metabolism, placentation and fetal development. Because of these many similarities, SIV/SHIV infection of macaques has become a very relevant animal model of HIV/AIDS to study all aspects of viral infection and disease development, and to test intervention strategies.

Research in the Infectious Diseases Unit  

• SIV studies in macaques cover all ages, ranging from infancy to adulthood, and continue to provide better insight into how the virus transmits and causes disease, including immunodeficiency and neuro-AIDS. The model tests immune and drug-based strategies to prevent or treat infection or the resulting diseases, and provides proof-of-concept for human clinical trials. The relevance of this animal model is clear, as many of the current antiretroviral drug regimens used to prevent or treat HIV infection in humans were originally tested in the nonhuman primate models. Ongoing efforts include studies on the mechanisms behind the incomplete repair of the gut in SIV-infected animals on antiretroviral drug therapy, and the use of mesenchymal stem/stromal cell (MSC) therapy to promote better recovery of the gut mucosa.
• Researchers are using SARS-CoV-2 infection of macaques to study the effects of virus replication on the respiratory tract and the central nervous system and the interplay with antiviral immune responses. Researchers have used this animal model to test the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines in infant macaques. They also demonstrated that monoclonal antibodies are very effective in treating established infections. Ongoing studies focus on developing a macaque model of long COVID.
• This unit has a long history of using rhesus cytomegalovirus (Rh-CMV)-vectored vaccines against chronic diseases such as SIV/HIV.
• Recent and ongoing studies include other emerging diseases, especially arboviruses such as Zika virus, Dengue virus, and Chikungunya virus.
• In many of these studies, the Infectious Diseases Unit investigators collaborate closely with the other Research Units and Cores of the CNPRC, and external investigators at UC-Davis, national and international institutions

Infectious Diseases Unit Highlights