Human Virus Entry, Pathogenesis and Infection Preventions
Our laboratory based research has sought to understand molecular mechanisms of how human pathogenic viruses enter into cells to mediate infection, membrane fusion and spread, and how these affect replication, pathogenesis and disease. The studies include exploring mechanisms of entry and early events for human herpesviruses- HSV-1 and HSV-2 . In conjunction with chemical engineering and human genetics researchers we have sought to develop microchip technologies for rapid and inexpensive detection of genetic variations in influenza virus. Experimental systems that examine viral entry, cellular receptors, pathogenesis, protein structure/function and fusion of biological membranes are used to determine possible approaches to control or prevent infection by viral pathogens. We seek to apply fundamental molecular information to development of new anti-virals, detection of genetic variation, and development of community based interventions for infectious disease prevention.
A recent focus in Preventive Medicine and Medical Education is use of a science-based HIV/AIDS intervention through religious leader networks to actively address infectious disease health disparities. Specifically, we seek to validate effectiveness of a prevention model designated the "Trusted Messenger Intervention" (TMI) that reframes HIV as a virus infection that can be controlled. TMI works with clergy and faith leaders within official established networks so they become more confident to use their substantial community access and influence to effectively address HIV/AIDS.
A major objective of this community-based research is to build capacity of clergy and religious leaders to take biomedical research advances into their community organizations. This is one way to link science and medical based understanding with group and individual actions. Outcomes of TMI are measured by surveys and focus groups for effects on HIV/AIDS stigma, increase in understanding of HIV/AIDS and increase in completion of HIV voluntary counseling and testing (VCT). VCT is a key step in stopping virus transmission and reducing the incidence and death from AIDS and other preventable diseases.
This collaborative and community based research focus is with public health faculty colleagues and community religious networks and community faith leaders in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. Recent study sites in the USA have been identified in work with the Center for AIDS Research at Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College.