June 9, 2020

Jennifer Jenks (Duke University)

Targeting a neutralizing cytomegalovirus glycoprotein by B cell phylogenetics

Spring 2020 Graduate Student Award in Pathogenic and Commensal Organisms

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the leading cause of congenital infection and infant brain damage worldwide, affecting nearly one child every hour. It is more common than all 29 newborn conditions currently screened for in the U.S. combined and alone is responsible for ~25% of permanent newborn hearing loss. Infant CMV infection can occur when a pregnant woman contracts the virus and passes the infection to her unborn child. Thus, vaccination of women of childbearing age or younger is the ideal strategy to eliminate congenital transmission. Despite the pressing need, vaccine development against CMV faces many challenges, including identifying CMV immunogens that can induce protective antibody responses. This study applies phylogenetic strategies to investigate how antibodies against CMV evolve in the context of pathogen neutralization, thereby enabling the design of precision vaccines.