For the last twenty years I have conducted basic research on respiratory viruses that cause serious childhood diseases, and on newly emerging viruses that affect humans. I am motivated by the goal of preventing or curing serious respiratory disease in children, and dedicated to applying my lab’s discoveries to new strategies for antiviral drugs.
Recently, we found that Hendra and Nipah viruses, two highly lethal viruses that have emerged in recent outbreaks, are susceptible to chloroquine, an inexpensive and established drug used to prevent and treat malaria. Harbored by fruit bats, these viruses cause potentially fatal encephalitis and respiratory disease in humans, with a devastating 75 percent fatality rate. These two henipaviruses have caused outbreaks in Australia, Southeast Asia, and Bangladesh, and are listed by the U.S. government as possible bioterror agents. There are currently no vaccines or treatments against either virus.
I came to my interest in pediatrics and infectious diseases through a passion for improving health care in the developing world. As a medical student I worked in jungle villages in remote regions of Peru, extending the reach of programs for controlling tuberculosis and delivering vaccines to native communities. I have returned to Peru over the years to train native health care workers in basics of caring for children.