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Amy L Hartman, PhD

Assistant Professor, Infectious Diseases and Microbiology

Primary Faculty, Center for Vaccine Research

Secondary Faculty, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics


BST3, 3501 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15261
R-znvy: unegzna7@cvgg.rqh
Primary Phone: 967-193-3210
Fax: 967-193-3462

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Personal Statement

Dr. Hartman received her bachelor's degree in Biology from Washington and Jefferson College in 1998. She received her Ph.D. in Molecular Virology from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2003. Her graduate thesis was done in the laboratory of Mickey Murphey-Corb, Ph.D. and focused on host factors controlling Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) infection in rhesus macaques.

Dr. Hartman then did a post-doctoral fellowship in the Special Pathogens Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA under Stuart Nichol, Ph.D. Her work focused on viral virulence factors contributing to severe disease induced by infection with Ebola Zaire virus. During her time at CDC, Dr. Hartman was a member of the outbreak response team sent to Angola in 2005 during the largest recorded outbreak of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever.  Dr. Hartman assisted with setup and operation of the molecular diagnostic laboratory, which used Taqman PCR to diagnose patient clinical samples.  

Dr. Hartman returned to the University of Pittsburgh in 2007 as the Research Manager of the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory with a primary faculty appointment in the Department of Infectious Disease and Microbiology (IDM) in the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH).


1998 | Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, PA | BA
2003 | University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA | PhD 


Course Director:  

IDM2004 - Viral Pathogenesis (fall term)

IDM2025 - Microbiology Seminar (fall and spring terms)


IDM 2010 - Pathogen Biology (fall term)

IDM 2002 - Molecular Virology (spring term)

IDM 2038 - Prevention, Treatment, and Control of Global Infectious Diseases (spring term)

MSMVM 3440 - Vaccines and Immunity (spring term)

Who We Are

Research Interests

Dr. Hartman's broad research interests center on understanding the pathogenic mechanisms of RNA viruses, particularly arboviruses (viruses transmitted by insect vectors).  The focus of her research is on arboviruses that have the potential to spread to new locations (emerging viruses), as well as those that have the potential for misuse through bioterrorism.  In addition to understanding the disease-causing mechanisms of these viruses, Dr. Hartman works closely with the Department of Defense to assist in the testing of new treatments and vaccines to protect U.S. military personnel from exposure to virulent viruses.  Current research projects in Dr. Hartman's lab focus on aerosol infection models of Rift Valley Fever virus and the alphaviruses (Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses).

Rift Valley Fever virus (RVFV) is a mosquito-borne virus that causes severe disease in livestock and humans in Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Rift Valley Fever is found endemically in these regions, and rainfall alterations can lead to epizootics in livestock and epidemics in humans. RVFV is easily transmitted when humans handle infected animal carcasses, and this transmission is thought to be by mucosal exposure or direct inhalation of virus particles. Due to its ability to infect by the aerosol route, RVFV is also considered a potential bioterror threat. For these reasons, better vaccines and therapeutics for this globally-important emerging infectious disease are needed. 

Rift Valley Fever is included on the World Health Organization's list of prioritized diseases likely to cause major epidemics in the near future, including Rift Valley Fever.  In January of 2016, Science magazine named Rift Valley Fever as one of the top 10 diseases for which a vaccine is urgently needed.


Current research projects in Dr. Hartman's lab focus on the neuropathogenesis of RVFV. Dr. Hartman has established the first well-characterized models of the neurological disease that is seen in some RVFV-infected people. These models are currently being used to understand how the virus causes lethal encephalitis. Dr. Hartman's models have also been used to test novel antiviral drugs, such as Favipiravir (T-705), to determine its broad-spectrum applicability to treat emerging diseases. 

Dr. Hartman's lab at the University of Pittsburgh Regional Biocontainment Laboratory has the necessary federal approvals to work at BSL-3, advanced equipment, and trained staff to successfully implement large research grants and contracts aimed at understanding the pathogenesis of infectious diseases.

Latest Publications

Just Published!

McMillen, C.M., N. Arora, D.A. Boyles, J.R. Albe, M.R. Kujawa, J.F. Bonadio, C.B. Coyne, and A.L. Hartman. 2018. Rift Valley fever virus induces fetal demise through direct placental infection. Science Advances 4(12):eaau9812. December 5, 2018.

ABSTRACT: Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) infections in pregnant livestock cause high rates of fetal demise; miscarriage in pregnant women have also been associated with RVFV infection. To address how RVFV infection during pregnancy causes detrimental effects on the fetus, we developed a pregnant rodent model of RVFV infection. We found that pregnant rats were more susceptible to RVFV-induced death than their non-pregnant counterparts and that RVFV infection resulted in intrauterine fetal death and severe congenital abnormalities, even in pups from infected asymptomatic pregnant rats. Virus distribution in infected dams was widespread, with a previously unrecognized preference for infection, replication, and tissue damage in the placenta. In human mid-gestation placental tissue, RVFV directly infected placental chorionic villi, with replication detected in the outermost syncytial layer. Our work identifies direct placental infection by RVFV as a mechanism for vertical transmission. This is the first study to show vertical transmission with a lethal outcome in a species other than livestock. This study highlights the potential impact of a future epidemic of this emerging mosquito-borne virus.


In Press:

Walters, A.W., M.R. Kujawa, J.R. Albe, W.B. Klimstra, and A.L. Hartman. Vascular permeability in the brain is a late pathogenic event during Rift Valley fever virus encephalitis in rats. *In press at Virology (accepted 10/19/18)

ABSTRACT:  Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) is a zoonotic disease of livestock that causes several clinical outcomes in people including febrile disease, hemorrhagic fever, and/or encephalitis. After aerosol infection with RVFV, Lewis rats develop lethal encephalitic disease, and we use this as a model for studying disease mechanisms of RVFV infection in the brain. Permeability of the brain vasculature in relation to virus invasion and replication is not known. Here, we found that vascular permeability in the brain occurred late in the course of infection and corresponded temporally to expression of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9). Virus replication was ongoing within the central nervous system for several days prior to detectable vascular leakage. Based on this study, vascular permeability was not required for entry of RVFV into the brain of rats. Prevention of vascular leakage late in infection may be an important component for prevention of lethal neurological disease in the rat model.

New Review article available online 5/31/18: Read about the history of Rift Valley Fever
McMillen & Hartman: Antiviral Research


The Hartman lab is seeking motivated post-doctoral scholars with an interest in the neuropathogenesis of arboviruses. Candidates will need to pass Department of Justice clearance and the University of Pittsburgh’s Tier 1 Select Agent Suitability Assessment.  Successful applicant must be willing to work in BSL-3/ABSL-3 and undergo a rigorous safety training program. Entry-level or experienced post-docs are encouraged to apply. Interested candidates should email a CV and cover letter.  

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Lab Members


Cynthia McMillen, PhD (post-doc)

Joseph Albe, MPH (Research Technician)

Devin Boyles (MS student and Research Technician)

Stacey Barrick (Project Coordinator)

Jeneveve Lundy (Veterinary Technician)

Zachary Koenig (MS Student)

Alyssa Jespersen (rotating IDM PhD student)

Past Staff:
Michael Kujawa (Research Technician)

Jen Symmonds (Veterinary technician)

Aaron Walters, MS (Research Technician)

Tiffany Thompson, MPH (Research Technician)

Amy L. Caroline (Research Technician)

Jacquelyn M. Bales (Research Technician)

Diana Powell (Veterinary Technician)
Laura Bethel (Research Technician)

Past Students:

  1. Tiffany Thompson - MPH degree awarded June 2017. Essay: "A Literature Review of the Histology of Rift Valley Fever Virus Neurological Disease Comparing Rodent and NHP Models to Human Disease."
  2. Joseph Albe - MPH degree awarded April 2017. Thesis: "Viral encephalitis: phenotyping leukocyte infiltration into the central nervous system as a result of Rift Valley fever virus infection."
  3. Noah Salama - MS degree awarded April 2017. Thesis: "Analysis of peripheral immune responses for the development of an encephalitis non-human primate animal model for new world alphaviruses."
  4. Aaron Walters - MS degree awarded December 2016. Thesis: "The effect of infection route on disease outcome in rats infected with Rift Valley fever virus."
  5. Michael Kujawa - MS degree awarded April 2016.  Thesis: "Understanding the neuropathogenesis of Rift Valley Fever using in vitro and in vivo models."
  6. Jonathan Berback - MPH-PEL degree awarded December 2015.  Thesis: "Antiviral activity of primary human trophoblast conditioned media against Rift Valley Fever virus."
  7. David Jung - MPH-PEL degree awarded December 2015.  Thesis: "Efficacy and Cytotoxicity of Novel Antiviral Compounds Against Rift Valley Fever Virus."
  8. Amy L. Caroline - MS degree awarded April 2013.  Thesis: "Characterization of the humoral immune response in rats and non-human primates exposed to aerosolized virulent Rift Valley Fever virus."


1/8/19: New York Times 

12/15/18: ABC News 

12/5/18: AAAS News

12/5/18: WESA FM (Pittsburgh's NPR affiliate)

3/24/16: Time Magazine

11/16/15: WESA FM 

11/4/15: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

7/6/2015:Global Biodefense

Winter 2015 issue of Pitt Magazine
11/19/2014: Washington Observer-Reporter
10/16/2014: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 8/19/2014: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
10/11/2010: Pitt Chronicle

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Amy L Hartman
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