Dalius J Briedis
Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Despite the development of an apparently effective vaccine against measles in the early 1960's, it remains the number one infectious killer in the developing world. The disease strikes about 44 million children a year and kills 1.5 million of them. Moreover, in the 1980s and '90s, large scale outbreaks of measles have occurred 3 out of 4 years in North America.
Really effective control of measles will likely require development of a genetically-engineered vaccine that contains protective viral elements with none of the components that can cause immunosuppression. Existing basic knowledge of what happens during measles virus infection is currently inadequate for such a task. My laboratory is currently one of only a handful worldwide conducting intensive research into the molecular biology and immunology of measles virus infection and replication.
The measles virus is a member of a diverse group of viruses with single-stranded negative-sense RNA genomes. Our ongoing work on the fundamental mechanisms involved in measles virus replication involves the analysis of cis-acting control sequences within the measles virus genome, functional analysis of individual measles virus-encoded polypeptides via vector expression in bacteria and in vitro functional assay, as well as inducible expression and analysis in eukaryotic cells, mapping and specific determination of the genetic basis of vaccine attenuation, in vitro mutagenesis to generate defined virus mutants, the goal of generating new vaccine strains of measles virus, and, ultimately and the expectation of generating an engineered vaccine containing protective viral elements, but with none of the components which cause immune suppression.