Research in our department focuses on several viruses that target immune and respiratory regions, as well as prions that target the central nervous system. We seek to understand the mechanisms by which these pathogens replicate and induce pathogenesis, and to apply our understanding to the development of methods to control these agents, remove them from blood products, and diagnosis their infection rapidly.
(1) Infections to the immune system
Dengue illness, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, is among the most important viral infectious diseases in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. There are four antigenically distinct dengue virus serotypes. Severe dengue cases, such as dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome, mostly occur by secondary infection with a serotype different from the primary infected serotype. Although individuals infected with dengue virus produce high titers of neutralizing antibodies, some of these antibodies may play a role in the antibody-dependent enhancement of the secondarily infected serotype, which could make vaccine development difficult. We seek to characterize the mechanism by which dengue virus derived from South Asian countries induces dengue illness in order to develop an antidengue viral drug. For its in vivo evaluation, we are also developing animal models for dengue viral infection. In addition, we are preparing human monoclonal antibodies to understand the viral-induced pathogenicity and to develop therapeutic antibodies.
(2) Infections to the respiratory system
Influenza virus induces typical acute infection in the respiratory region. In addition to seasonal influenza viruses, a swine-origin pandemic virus appeared in 2009. Currently, the possible global emergence of a pandemic virus from highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, such as H5N1, is a public concern worldwide. Together with Alexandria University, we are studying H5N1 circulating in Egypt. Recently, we found that some of the new H5 sublineages in Egypt have acquired an enhanced binding capacity to human-type receptors. The purpose of our search is to ascertain the pandemic potential of these H5N1 viruses in Egypt. We have prepared several human neutralizing monoclonal antibodies against influenza virus. Because the epitope region recognized by one of the monoclonal antibodies is highly conserved and forms a conformational structure, we are working on the possible development of a new vaccine with this conformation in the synthetic peptide in collaboration with several companies.
(3) Blood-borne infections
We are working to establish how to remove infectious agents, such as parvovirus B19, SARS-corona virus, hepatitis E virus, and prions, from blood products in collaboration with a company.
(4) Rapid diagnosis kits
There are many techniques for the diagnosis of viral infections, including immunofluorescence, ELISA, Western blot, and PCR assays. We are currently working with several companies towards the development of rapid diagnosis kits against several infectious diseases.
Dengue viral infection induces strong humoral immunity and antibody production. These antibodies include neutralizing antibodies and negatively regulating antibodies by antibody-dependent enhancement. Human monoclonal antibodies are being prepared by using immune cells from patients to investigate dengue virus-induced pathogenicity and to develop antibody therapeutics.
(b) Pathology of the new H5 sublineage that has emerged in Egypt. Expansion of receptor usage (increased α2,6 sialylglycan binding) enables the new sublineage to bind more efficiently to epithelia in the lower respiratory tract.