The SULTANA laboratory uses approaches from the fields of Vector Biology, Virology, Microbial Pathogenesis, Immunology and Vaccine development to address arthropod-borne diseases that are present world-wide. Tick-borne diseases are most commonly present in the Northern hemisphere, Europe and some parts of Asia (Southern parts of India reports several cases of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) annually). In contrast mosquito-borne diseases affects the global population and has shown several outbreaks in the past.
Our laboratory is interested in the identification and characterization of novel therapeutic agents or targets to treat pan-flaviviral infections including but not limited to Dengue viruses (Serotypes 1-4), West Nile virus (WNV), Zika virus (ZIKV), Tick-borne Langat (LGTV) and Powassan viruses (POWV) that are related to tick-borne encephalitis viruses (TBEV). Treatment for pan-flaviviruses is supportive, as effective vaccines and therapeutics have not yet been identified or approved for use in humans. Currently, we are focused in understanding the molecular mechanisms and signaling cascades that occur at the interface of host-vector-virus interactions. Additionally, we are delineating the molecular mechanisms for flavivirus based neurological manifestations. Also, we study the molecular mechanisms in the mosquito and tick vectors during flavivirus pathogenesis. Our research in this line would be beneficial to identify novel host or vector molecules that would be used as therapeutics or vaccine(s) against flavivirus infections. Our long-term goal is to develop targeted therapeutic candidates or vaccines that can be broadly used as cross-reactive therapy against a panel of flaviviruses.
Our novel line of research on Arthropod-derived exosomes in mediating flavivirus transmission is highly rewarding. We have been currently identifying and characterizing the cargo and cargo sorting mechanisms in arthropod exosomes. Our recent study not only provides evidence to show that tick-borne pathogens use arthropod-derived exosomes for transmission from vector to mammalian cells but also use these exosomes for dissemination within the vertebrate host. The transmission strategies used by flaviviruses to exit arthropods and infect human host are envisioned as best approaches to develop transmission-blocking vaccines against vector molecules or determinants that facilitate pathogen transmission.
In addition, a part of our laboratory study interactions of tick-borne Rickettsial pathogens such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum with its arthropod vector. Our future research will also focus on Rickettsia conorii interactions with arthropod host. These studies are focused to provide evidences for the novel role(s) of mammalian and arthropod molecules during host-pathogen interactions that may suggest new strategies to interfere with the life cycle of these obligate intracellular pathogens, and perhaps other vector-borne microbes.
Collectively, our studies would not only define molecular basis of the interactions at the pathogen-vector-host interface but may also lead to the development of therapeutics, vaccine(s) and better strategies such as development of transmission blocking vaccine(s) to interfere with the life cycle of this and perhaps other medically important vectors.