Virus Transmission

Hepatitis C virus (HepC) infects humans and it does not replicate efficiently in small animal models. This virus can lay undetected for years in the majority of infected individuals, leading to progressive liver damage. Until recently, scientists struggled to propagate HepC from patient blood, and this held back detailed studies of virus transmission and antiviral immunity.

HepC Trans-infection

Trans-infection experiment. We culture hepatocyte cell lines (large oval blue nuclei) in plastic dishes, and add lymphocytes (small round nuclei) as vehicles that deliver HepC virus to hepatocytes. We let the virus replicate and then detect viral proteins in the cytoplasm of infected cells (green). Stamataki et al, 2009

We discovered that like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), HepC can hitch a ride on blood immune cells (lymphocytes) and -without infecting them- it can be delivered to its preferred target cell, the liver hepatocyte.

The process of a virus using a cell as a “vehicle” for its transmission is called “trans-infection”.

There are currently no therapeutic interventions that target specifically this mode of transmission.

Our team is working to identify the molecular determinants of trans-infection.

We are investigating the impact of virus-immune cell interactions, both on virus transmission and on immune cell function.