Co-evolution of viruses and their rodent hosts
Stephen St. Jeor, John Boone and Sergey Morzunov (UNR), Kenneth McGwire (Desert Research Institute), Brett Riddle (UNLV).
Many viruses are highly adapted to their hosts. In such cases, infection may be associated with little or no pathology. However, transfer of the virus to a new host, including humans, can have disastrous consequences. Understanding of the mechanism and functional consequences of such virus-host adaptation is fundamental to predicting the emergence of novel viruses. A multi-institutional effort involving the Desert Research Institute (Dr. Kenneth McGwire), the University of Nevada, Reno (Drs. John Boone, Sergey Morzunov and Stephen St. Jeor) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Dr. Brett Riddle) examines the co-evolution of hantaviruses and their rodent hosts. Remote sensing and geographical information system technologies identify natural sites for study. Powerful statistical and computational approaches characterize the functional significance of virus divergence. If successful, these studies will facilitate hypothesis building regarding the role of habitat fragmentation in accelerating virus evolution.