Viruses and their interactions with the immune system – Sara Gredmark Russ group

The research in our group lies within the area of immunology, with the main focus on viruses and their interactions with the immune system.

Group photo three women.

About our research

Viral infections can cause a number of different acute and chronic conditions. The approaches to treat these conditions are limited, and for many viral infections, there are no alternatives at all. Our research focuses on advancing the knowledge in the basic principles of the immune response to viral infections in humans. Our long-term goal is, aside from gaining knowledge in the basic functions of the human immune system, to contribute to the development of new diagnostics, treatment, and vaccination strategies for viral infections.

Studies of TBEV virus

One of the main subjects of our research is tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV). TBEV is a member of the flavivirus family, and is transferred to humans from ticks. TBEV is the causative agent of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). One major problems with TBE is the risk for long lasting neurological sequelae. TBE is an emerging disease and has become a growing health challenge in endemic areas. The only effective protection against TBE is properly timed vaccination, before the exposure to TBEV-infected ticks.

The TBE disease progression in humans. Illustration: Servier Medical Art

Despite the fact that vaccination against TBE is increasing in the at-risk population in Sweden, the numbers of patients suffering from TBE have also been increasing over the last decade. In addition, over the last years a number of vaccine failures have been reported.

Even though TBE has become an important public health concern, the underlying basis for the development of encephalitis in TBEV infection remains undefined, and there are only a few studies addressing the mechanism of disease development.

Sara Gredmark-Russ about TBE in the podcast Medicinvetarna (in Swedish)

TBE disease progression

Open positions

We always want to get in touch with talented potential co-workers. If you are interested in doing research within our group, as a degree project or as a researcher, please contact the Group leader Sara Gredmark Russ.

Projects

Characterization of the immune response during the natural course of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) infection in humans

In this project, we utilize advanced flow cytometry and other immunology methods, in order to characterize the kinetics and profile of innate and adaptive immune responses during TBE disease and TBE vaccination. Our overall goal is to translate our findings for the improvement of diagnostic tools, vaccine strategies and treatment of patients.

Identification of human cellular proteins and factors required for TBEV entry and replication

This project aims to identify human cellular proteins that are essential for TBEV infection, which could serve as novel therapeutic targets for TBE treatment. We utilise a genome-wide haploid genetic screen, a cutting-edge technology that allows rapid and sensitive identification of host factors utilised by pathogens for their entry and replication. This technique will be combined with deep sequencing and advanced bioinformatics analysis to identify host proteins needed for TBEV infection.

Immune cells in the central nervous system during viral infections

In healthy conditions, lymphocytic trafficking into the CNS is tightly controlled by the blood brain-barrier (BBB), but under inflammatory conditions, circulating lymphocytes and monocytes/macrophages can cross the BBB easily and gain access to CNS compartments, potentially leading to pathology. This project aims to characterize the infiltrating immune cell subsets within the cerebrospinal fluid and compare the subsets with peripheral blood. Additionally, we utilize in vitro BBB models to study the transmigration capability of immune cells during neurotropic viral infections. 

Characterization of the immune response during SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection in humans

Recently, with the first case in 2019, SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19), has emerged, causing severe respiratory disease, and having a significant burden on the health care system. We have set up a similar approach as for TBE to study SARS-Cov-2 in order to characterize the kinetics and profile of the adaptive immune responses during COVID-19 infection.

Keywords

virus, infection, T cells, immunology, host response, central nervous system

Publications

Selected publications

Funding

  • Swedish Research Council
  • MIMS Clinical Research Fellows Programme
  • Center of Innovative Medicine, Region Stockholm
  • Region Stockholm
  • Karolinska Institutet

Members and contact

Group leader

All members of the group