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Karst, Stephanie: Associate Professor

Research Interests:

Pathogenesis of noroviruses, innate immune responses to norovirus infection, and molecular mechanisms of norovirus replication.

Human noroviruses cause a majority of gastroenteritis outbreaks across the globe and are the leading cause of severe childhood diarrhea and foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. They are likely an even more significant problem in impoverished parts of the world, as supported by a survey that estimates they cause over one million clinic visits and 200,000 deaths in young children annually. Development of effective and long-lasting norovirus vaccines as well as antiviral therapies are thus of critical need. Unfortunately, the human norovirus field has long been crippled by the lack of an in vitro cell culture system.

My laboratory has recently revealed that B cells are targeted by both murine and human noroviruses, and have found that human noroviruses replicate in B cells in vitro. This represents the only cell culture system for a human norovirus. During these studies, we also made the fascinating discovery that norovirus infection is enhanced by commensal bacteria both in cells and in vivo during natural infections. As we now work to optimize this in vitro infection system, we hope that it will represent a major breakthrough for the norovirus field.

One of our immediate goals is to elucidate host and viral factors that regulate human norovirus infection. This information will provide key insight into critical host-virus interactions that can be targeted in future therapeutic and prevention strategies. Identifying host restriction factors may also facilitate the development of a more robust cell culture system. Our other immediate goal is to determine the impact of bacterial engagement on norovirus infection, both mechanistically at the cellular level and immunologically at the organismal level. Our overall research program aims to contribute to norovirus vaccine and antiviral drug development in the long-term.

We are currently accepting applications for a postdoctoral scientist to work on these studies.  If you are interested and have first-author publications in major research journals, please apply at virology.net/jobs.

Reach me at: skarst@ufl.edu  and phone 352-273-5627

Education:

Postdoctoral Study, Washington University School of Medicine
Ph.D., Cellular Biology and Biochemistry, 2000, University of Missouri
B.S., Biology, 1995, Southern Illinois University
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