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Human Viral & Cancer Immunology

Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous herpes virus that is aetiologically linked to a range of non-malignant and malignant diseases. EBV infects more than 90% of the population worldwide, the great majority of whom recover with no long-term clinical side effects, but in some cases it can cause glandular fever. Persistent EBV infection is also known to be associated with the development of at least 7 distinct types of human malignancies, which implies that continuous immune surveillance is essential in normal healthy individuals to keep the virus under control.

Our laboratory is interested in understanding how the human immune system normally controls EBV, and to what extent aberrant controls contribute to disease pathogenesis.

Effective control of infections and cancers relies on coordinated trafficking of T cells into tissues. For a long time it was thought that T lymphocyte populations in tissues were largely maintained by the continuous circulation of memory T cells. Recent studies in mice however, have challenged this concept by showing that a proportion of memory T cells in tissues not only do not enter circulation, but also are superior at protecting against reinfection when compared to their circulating counterparts. Whether these cells exist in humans is largely unknown.

Our recent work has not only identified resident memory T cells in different human tissues, but has also demonstrated that there is strategic retention of these cells at sites of possible reinfection. Understanding how T cells are retained within tissues, at the sites of continuing exposure to viruses, is critical not only for future vaccine strategies, but also for the prevention of T cell mediated immunopathology.

Dr Mainthan Palendira, Head of Laboratory

Phone: +61 2 9565 6211
Email: m.palendira@centenary.org.au

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