Enterovirus detection and phylogenetics
There are more than 100 human enteroviruses, including poliovirus, that cause a wide range of disease from febrile illness to hand foot and mouth disease, meningitis, myocarditis and paralysis, which may be fatal. The development of assays for the direct detection of enteroviruses in clinical specimens is of particular interest, not only for the WHO polio eradication program, but also public health officials to understand the epidemiology of enterovirus circulation. Further understanding is gained by analysing the genetic sequence to determine the pathways of enterovirus transmission.
Molecular dynamics simulation of complete pathogens
In 2011, Jason developed the first complete atomic model and supercomputer simulation of a pathogenic virus that infects humans, poliovirus. The model included the virus capsid surrounding the RNA genome and the procedure enabled the virus structure to be analysed in minute detail. The procedure was successfully applied to other non-enveloped viruses with icosahedral structure, such as rhinovirus, and enterovirus 71. Collaborative work for the simulation of influenza virus and papillomavirus has also been performed.
Investigation of antiviral resistance using molecular dynamics simulations
The simulation of viruses can be used to understand the biological implication of structural variation. For example, the poliovirus simulation was used to investigate the impact of mutations on anti-viral resistance at the molecular level in collaboration with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, USA. Vaccine derived polioviruses are highly mutated forms of the virus that can cause outbreaks of paralytic polio. Studying the interaction between poliovirus and antivirals at the molecular level can lead to insights of how resistance occurs.
Scientific visualisation of pathogenic viruses
The reconstruction and simulation of viruses in silico represent a great resource, not only for biological studies, but also to educate and stimulate interest in virology. Viruses can be depicted in eye-catching formations, highlighting specific structures while still being a biologically accurate model. The ability to explore the virus structure in 3-D adds another dimension, generating deeper understanding and appreciation of just what is a virus. Jason’s work has been used by the Doherty Institute, University of Melbourne, Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Fairfax media and the Australian Government.
Dr Jason Roberts
(03) 9342 9607 | [email protected]
Dr Jason Roberts is a Senior Medical Scientist and Deputy Head of the National Enterovirus Reference Laboratory at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL), which is also a World Health Organization Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio. Jason focuses on improving laboratory surveillance for enteroviruses associated with neurological infections and is passionate about producing computer models that are an accurate depiction of virus structure. Jason completed a PhD in bioinformatics and computational biophysics for enterovirus reference and research and is an Adjunct Principal Research Fellow at RMIT University.