Cytomegalovirus Research Laboratory

Lab head: A/Prof Barry Slobedman
Location: Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Charles Perkins Centre


How does human cytomegalovirus cause life-threatening disease in transplant recipients?

Primary supervisor: Barry Slobedman


Honours in the Cytomegalovirus Research Laboratory in the Charles Perkins Centre


Discipline of Infectious Diseases and Immunology


The Cytomegalovirus Research Laboratory conducts NHMRC funded research into human cytomegalovirus and seeks enthusiastic students with a strong interest in determining how this virus causes life-threatening disease in transplant recipients . 



How does human cytomegalovirus cause life-threatening disease in transplant recipients?


 What is human cytomegalovirus?

·Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a medically important virus that affects millions of people worldwide

·CMV is a member of the Herpesvirus family of viruses

·CMV is carried by the vast majority of the human population (up to 90%)

·After initial (primary) productive infection, the virus remains in your body for the rest of your life in a dormant (latent) state, but can reawaken (reactivate) years later to cause devastating disease if you become immunosuppressed

·The host immune response clears the initial (primary) productive infection, but cannot eliminate the latent virus from the body

The good news...

·Infection usually causes mild or asymptomatic disease in most healthy adults

The bad news...

·CMV infection is the most common congenitally acquired infection in infants where it is the leading viral cause of neurological defects eg mental retardation, deafness

·CMV is a major cause of life-threatening disease in immunocompromised individuals including AIDS patients and allogeneic transplant recipients. Infection during immunosuppression results in disseminated CMV which can lead to severe infections of the GI tract, hepatitis, pneumonia, accelerated atherosclerosis, rejection in solid organ transplant recipients and raft-versus-host disease in bone marrow recipients

·CMV disease in transplant recipients is associated with high mortality (15-75%) and a large increase in health care costs

·The US National Institutes of Medicine has now assigned the highest priority for the development of a CMV vaccine

Reactivation from latency causes most of the serious CMV disease in immunosuppressed people such as transplant recipients. There is no vaccine, nor any drug that prevents latency. It is not clear how the virus functions to successfully persists in the human host.


Honours Projects in the CMV Research Laboratory (broad scope):

·We have discovered that CMV expresses viral genes during the productive and/or latent phase of  infection. We aim to characterise the functions of these genes in a variety of settings.

·We have also discovered that CMV modulates host immune responses expression during productive and/or latent phases of infection. We aim to define the critical changes to the host cell that are induced by CMV.

·We have discovered that there may be patterns of host immune gene expression (such as cytokines) which are associated with protection from CMV reactivation in stem cell transplant patients. We aim to define other immune parameters associated with protection from, or susceptibility to, CMV reeactivation.

·We have developed experimental models of CMV infection of multiple primary human cell types, and also have strong links with transplant physicians to access naturally infected clinical samples from transplant donors and recipients with or without CMV disease.

·Honours projects are tailored to be (i) internationally leading and (ii) to align best with the lab and the student’s research interests. Honours projects are therefore at the “cutting edge” of research in this field, and are also designed to provide a solid basis for extension into a project suitable for those seeking to undertake a PhD.

·If you are interested in pursuing Honours in the CMV lab, we encourage you to meet to look at the lab facilities, meet the lab members, and speak in more detail about potential Honours projects.

For more information:

A/Prof Barry Slobedman. Email:

Dr Brian McSharry. Email:

Dr Selmir Avdic. Email:

A/Prof Allison Abendroth. Email:

Discipline: Infectious diseases and Immunology
Co-supervisors: Brian McSharry, Allison Abendroth, Selmir Avdic
Keywords: immunobiology, Virology, Cytomegalovirus