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Research & Practice

Reed Fall 2017 lab photo

Research expertise within the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology is in various aspects of infectious diseases and host-pathogen interactions, including the pathogenesis of microbial infections at the cellular and molecular levels as they relate to developing methods for disease prevention. Results of landmark clinical trials the department has conducted over several decades have led to significant advances in the fight against infectious diseases including polio and HIV/AIDS.

Historic Research Highlights

  • Ground-breaking, placebo-controlled clinical trials on passive immunization with immunoglobulins against poliovirus that helped the development of the Salk polio vaccine
  • Discovery of California encephalitis virus
  • Discovery of dengue virus types 3 and 4
  • Discovery of adeno-associated virus, which is important for use as a viral vector for gene therapy
  • Discovery that cytomegalovirus (CMV) was transmitted via organ transplantation
  • Founding the Pitt Men's Study in 1983, part of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, the largest and longest-running study of HIV-1 and AIDS, which has made major findings on the natural history of HIV-1 infection that have been critical for the development of effective treatment and prevention strategies
  • Developing a test to measure the level of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in blood, which has been used extensively to control and prevent post-transplantation lymphoproliferative disease, a serious EBV-related consequence of solid organ transplantation
  • Determining a cell receptor gateway for infection of B lymphocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages with Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus, also known as human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8)
  • Provided conclusive evidence that semen from HIV-infected men carries large amounts of virus, and that antiretroviral treatment dramatically reduces the viral load in semen, thereby lowering HIV-1 transmission
  • Conducted research that was instrumental in supporting policies for prevention of HIV-1 transmission by treatment of wastewater
  • Determining that a single, “viral load” measure of the amount of HIV-1 in a patient’s blood could predict the subsequent risk of AIDS up to 10 years later, which is used world-wide as the most important determinant of clinical HIV-1 status
  • Discovery that professional antigen presenting cells in the small percentage of HIV-infected persons who are able to control and prevent disease progression without antiviral drug therapy, have a unique, low level of cholesterol that renders them unable to trans-infect their T cells

Current Research Strengths

  • HIV-1 immunopathogenesis and immunotherapies towards a cure)
  • Complications of anti-HIV-1 therapy
  • AIDS education and prevention
  • Herpesviruses
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis viruses, Rift Valley fever virus, dengue virus, and anellovirus

IDM Research Videos

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Hartman among researchers trying to prevent virus more dangerous than Zika (video) 

Hartman among researchers trying to prevent virus more dangerous than Zika (video)

WPXI - Pitt researchers are looking to lessons learned about Zika when preparing for the possibility of Rift Valley Fever virus, noting that it's important to develop therapies and vaccines now. "We saw the ffects of Zika when it got into a larger population and so our work highlights the need to r... (02/11/2019)
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Hernandez's research adds to pharmaceutical industry's growing pressure over high price of drugs 

Hernandez's research adds to pharmaceutical industry's growing pressure over high price of drugs

FOX NEWS - "It's not about innovation, it's about inflation in existing products," explains Inmaculada Hernandez (HPM '16). "They are the same companies that operate in other countries and they don't show this behavior and that's because in other countries they are lucky to have this regulatory env... (01/24/2019)
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IDM’s Rinaldo discusses HIV wonder drugs and curing HIV in 1998 World AIDS Day interview (VIDEO) 

IDM’s Rinaldo discusses HIV wonder drugs and curing HIV in 1998 World AIDS Day interview (VIDEO)

UPMC HEALTH NEWS – In the late 1990s, new and highly potent anti-HIV drugs emerged— including protease and reverse transcriptase inhibitors—which could for the first time control HIV infection. For this 1998 World AIDS Day, Pitt IDM AIDS researcher Charles Rinaldo and the late Bridget Murtagh of th... (07/17/2018)
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Matthews on why we need a public health approach to HIV (video) 

Matthews on why we need a public health approach to HIV (video)

IDM's DERRICK MATTHEWS explains Pitt Public Health's work on HIV/AIDS and where we are today. "If your’e a black gay man in the U.S., you have a one in two change in your lifetime of becoming HIV positive…short of the cure that we’re looking for, the biology is way ahead of the social implementat... (06/20/2018)
View more IDM research & faculty news

Recent IDM Publications

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Contrasting roles of the PD-1 signaling pathway in dendritic cell-mediated induction and regulation of HIV-1-specific effector T cell functions 

Contrasting roles of the PD-1 signaling pathway in dendritic cell-mediated induction and regulation of HIV-1-specific effector T cell functions

JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY - Using samples from participants in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort study, Garcia-Bates, Palma, Shen, Gambotto, Macatangay, Ferris, Rinaldo, and Mailliard showed that PD-1 activation plays a positive role in initiating the primary T cell response. But later blocking of that pathway... (12/13/2018)

Development of antibody biomarkers of long term and recent dengue virus infections 

Development of antibody biomarkers of long term and recent dengue virus infections

JOURNAL OF VIROLOGICAL METHODS - BURKE, MARQUES, and colleagues discuss anti-dengue NS1-specific IgG and IgG3 as potential biomarkers of long-term and recent (less than 6 months) DENV infections, respectively.  (06/14/2018)

Tradition and innovation in development of a Zika vaccine 

Tradition and innovation in development of a Zika vaccine

THE LANCET - MARQUES and BURKE comment about two Zika vaccines in clinical development and describe the challenges ahead. (06/14/2018)

Zika virus displacement by a chikungunya outbreak in Recife, Brazil 

Zika virus displacement by a chikungunya outbreak in Recife, Brazil

PUBLIC LIBRARY OF SCIENCE - Magalhaes, Braga, Cordeiro, Oliveira, Castanha, Maciel, Amancio, Gouveia, Peixoto-deSilva Jr., Peixoto, Britto, Lima, Lima, and Marques detected the tail end of a Zika epidemic in 2015-16 which was displaced by a chikungunya epidemic. Few dengue cases were identified des... (06/14/2018)

Rift Valley fever in animals and humans: Current perspectives 

Rift Valley fever in animals and humans: Current perspectives

ANTIVIRAL RESEARCH - McMillen and Hartman discuss the historical role of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) as a biological weapon and conclude with an outline of the important unanswered questions for ongoing research into this important zoonotic disease. (06/11/2018)

Inefficient HIV-1 trans infection of CD4+ T cells by macrophages from HIV-1 nonprogressors is associated with altered membrane cholesterol and DC-SIGN 

Inefficient HIV-1 trans infection of CD4+ T cells by macrophages from HIV-1 nonprogressors is associated with altered membrane cholesterol and DC-SIGN

JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY - Delucia, Rinaldo, Rappocciolo demonstrate that the use of SIMV to decrease macrophage-mediated virus transfer should be considered for future HIV therapeutic development.  (05/18/2018)

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-mediated neuroinflammation dysredulates neurogranin and induces synaptodendritic injury 

Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-mediated neuroinflammation dysredulates neurogranin and induces synaptodendritic injury

JOURNAL OF NEUROINFLAMMATION - Guha, Wagner, Ayyavoo conduct first study evaluating the potential role of Ng in the context of HIV-1 neropathogens and conclude that synaptic damage in HAND+ patients could be a result of abrogation of Ng through HIV-1 induced inflammation that dysregulates Ng-CaM in... (05/18/2018)

Widespread virus replication in alveoli drives acute respiratory distress syndrome in aerosolized H5N1 influenza infection of macaques 

Widespread virus replication in alveoli drives acute respiratory distress syndrome in aerosolized H5N1 influenza infection of macaques

JOURNAL OF IMMUNOLOGY - Wonderlich, Swan, Bissel, Hartman, Carney, O'Malley, Obadan, Santos, Walker, Sturgeon, Frye, Maiello, Scanga, Bowling, Duangkhae, Wiley, Flynn, Wang, Cole, Reed, Barratt-Boyes establish a new nonhuman primate disease model for evaluation of vaccine and therapeutic approaches... (02/14/2018)
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