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Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine (FIVM) Seminar Series

Feline Calicivirus Receptor Interactions and Disease Pathogenesis & Control

On Friday November 21, 2014, Dr. John S. L. Parker of Cornell University will discuss recent advances in our understanding of feline calicivirus receptor interactions and their implications for disease pathogenesis and control.  This highly contagious virus evades the immune system and causes suffering in cats, from upper respiratory tract infections—commonly known as “cat flu”—to severe pneumonia, liver necrosis, pancreatitis, and even death.

Feline calicivirus is closely related to human norovirus, a highly infectious pathogen notorious for causing widespread outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness. Since norovirus is difficult to study in a laboratory setting, much about this common human pathogen remains mysterious. Studies of feline calicivirus strains and the ability of the host to neutralize these viruses can offer important insights that not only save cats, but may also help guide efforts to bolster the human immune response to norovirus.

Dr. Parker is a veterinarian and Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology within the College of John Parker Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. His research focuses on understanding basic mechanisms of how viruses infect cells. “For feline caliciviruses this involves trying to understand what happens when the virus interacts with receptors on the surface of a target cells. These interactions are important as they are the cues that determine which cells become infected, which tissues are diseased, and the course of the disease,” notes Dr. Parker. “At a molecular level these interactions are often not passive, but lead to small changes in virus shape that are required for infection -- or in other words the receptor 'programs' the virus to infect. From a broader perspective these changes at the molecular level influence disease pathogenesis and virulence and can explain differences in virulence between viral isolates. By understanding these changes we gain insight into how caliciviruses infect and can use this information to design antivirals that can block the early steps of viral infection”.

In other research, the Parker Laboratory works on mechanisms of compartmentalization of the translational apparatus in reovirus-infected cells.  They are also using new next generation sequencing approaches to learn more about how viruses influence cellular translation.

 Dr. Parker teaches an undergraduate class in virology and serves as Director of a graduate training program in comparative medicine. He also directs the Cornell Leadership Program for Veterinary Students and he has a strong interest in promoting careers in research for veterinary students. Together with another professor at Cornell University, Dr. Parker plays guitar in a rock and roll band. 

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Presented on November 21, 2015