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Adam Lauring

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Primary Appointment: Int Med-Infectious Diseases
Primary PIBS Dept.: Microbiology and Immunology
PubMed Name: Lauring AS
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  The rapid evolution of RNA viruses complicates the management of chronic infections and the control of emerging infectious agents. The ongoing global AIDS pandemic and the resurgence of influenza highlight the difficulties associated with these genetically labile pathogens. While high mutation rates make RNA viruses particularly challenging targets for vaccines and antiviral drugs, a clearer understanding of their unique evolutionary dynamics may suggest novel approaches for control. Our research objective is to understand mechanisms of viral evolution as they relate to pathogenesis and antiviral resistance in infected hosts. We study aspects of evolutionary theory in the context of the host-pathogen interface using molecular virology, small animal models, and newer genomic technologies.

We are particularly interested in defining the relationship between population diversity and viral phenotype in poliovirus, influenza, and other medically important RNA viruses. These viruses have extremely high mutation rates, which ensures that the vast majority of newly replicated genomes will be genetically distinct from their parents. In contrast, much of our understanding of pathogenesis derives from studies of viral consensus sequences, which represent the average sequence of a population. As a frame of reference, the consensus sequence obscures the inherent diversity of viral populations, and may not reveal many of the most important aspects of a virus’ evolutionary dynamics. Furthermore, the fleeting existence and mutability of each viral genome means that genetic information is stored within a diverse mutant swarm as opposed to in any individual sequence. RNA virus populations are better represented as dynamic networks in which sequences are continuously regenerated by mutation of related sequences. Defining this population structure is essential to unraveling the intricate patterns of RNA virus evolution.