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MCW Researcher to Study Evasive Immune Strategies of Herpesviruses

March 20, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a two-year, $476,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study immune response to certain herpesviruses.

Amy W. Hudson, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, is the primary investigator of the grant.

Human herpesviruses -6 and -7 infect essentially the world’s entire population before the age of five. Like all herpesviruses, these viruses remain latent or persistent throughout life. HHV-6 and -7 (Roseoloviruses) are common childhood illnesses. In most children, infection with HHV -6 or -7 causes a fever, which can be quite high; in some cases, these high fevers cause seizures. Recent studies suggest that these febrile seizures are associated with increased risk of developing epilepsy later in life.

Since herpesviruses remain latent or persistent within us throughout life, they must necessarily excel at escaping immune detection throughout the life of the host. Because HHV-6 and -7 infect only humans, an animal model in which to study how these viruses interact with and thwart immune detection does not exist.

In this project, Dr. Hudson will develop a mouse model with a “humanized” immune system to study the mechanisms by which these viruses evade detection by the immune system. This will lead to a better understanding of acute and latent infection, and may have future clinical application in the treatment of epilepsy and autoimmune disorders.

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