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 SIV / HIV and opportunistic infections, antiviral immunity, immunity of the genital tract, mucosal transmission of viruses, immunodeficiencies / prophylactics, antiviral therapies, vaccines, viral diagnostics and epidemiology. The Unit scientists are intensely involved in studies directly related to HIV vaccine development.

technician working at safety hood

Monkey Model of HIV

SAIDS (Simian AIDS) is an immune deficiency disease that results from an SIV infection (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), just as AIDS in humans results from HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Macaque monkeys that have SIV / SAIDS are ideal models to study the prevention of HIV infection and pathology of AIDS in humans. Monkeys and humans have similar physiology, drug metabolism, placentation and fetal development.

Research in the Infectious Diseases Unit  

  • Developing the SIV/rhesus macaque pediatric model of disease, to better understand the pathogenesis of SIV/HIV in neonates and test strategies for immunoprophylaxis and antiviral therapy to prevent infection or slow disease progression. Drug therapies used to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to infant were developed in nonhuman primate models, and are now being successfully used in many human populations to protect millions of infants from contracting HIV.
  • Using the nonhuman primate model of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) to develop novel strategies to prevent HCMV in susceptible individuals, such as AIDS patients, transplant recipients, and some fetuses and newborns
  • Defining our understanding of which viral genes are critical for the pathogenesis of AIDS
  • Ongoing studies to further our understanding of the epidemiology and zoonotic potential of nonhuman primate infectious diseases, including developing better diagnostic tools for these studies
  • Investigating the mechanisms of SIV/SHIV mucosal transmission, and the biology of the immune system in the female genital tract, information critical to develop effective HIV vaccines

Infectious Diseases Unit Highlights