The Office of the Vice President for Research recognizes Andrea Bertke, an assistant professor of infectious diseases in the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, for her investigations of how herpes simplex viruses reactivate to cause recurring diseases.
Her goal is to find targets for therapies to help people who suffer from herpes outbreaks.
There are two types of herpes simplex virus. Type 1 can be transmitted through oral secretions and shared toothbrushes, forks, and spoons, while type 2 is transmitted through sexual contact.
Many people with the herpes virus undergo periods when the virus is dormant and there are no physical symptoms, which can be interrupted by sudden outbreaks.
But there are differences in the latency and recurrence patterns of the two types. Type 1 reactivates more efficiently “above the waist” to cause cold sores, keratitis, and in some cases encephalitis, which could be fatal.
Type 2 reactivates more efficiently “below the waist” to cause genital herpes and recurrent spinal meningitis.
But either virus can infect either region, so it is unclear why they strike different areas of the anatomy.
Bertke compares the mechanisms that the type 1 and type 2 viruses use to establish latent infections and why they reactivate and present themselves differently.
In particular, she seeks to understand the role of the autonomic — or involuntary — nervous system in the process.
Her goal is to identify targets for antiviral medications to prevent viral reactivation and improve the outcomes for patients with herpes simplex-related diseases.
Bertke is a member of the Society for Neuroscience and the American Society of Microbiology. She teaches the graduate course on Principles of Infectious Disease.
She did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco in neurovirology, and at the University of Texas Medical Branch, investigating emerging RNA viruses.
She earned her Ph.D. in emerging infectious diseases from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and her bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Bowling Green State University.