Sarah McDonald

Sarah McDonald, PhD

Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute

Assistant Professor, Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine

Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Disease), Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Research Program Summary

Understanding how viruses evolve as they replicate and spread in the human population is fundamentally important for effective disease control. Viruses with segmented, RNA genomes can undergo reassortment during co-infection, resulting in progeny with segments derived from more than one parent. These exchanges allow viruses to acquire advantageous genes and rapidly adapt to selective pressures. Yet, segment exchange between divergent strains requires that critical protein-protein interactions be maintained during viral replication. As such, gene reassortment is a mixed blessing-the advantage of increasing diversity is balanced by the disadvantage of unlinking co-evolved proteins that operate best when kept together. My lab's research seeks to better understand the mechanism of gene reassortment for rotaviruses, which are segmented, double-stranded RNA viruses and important causes of severe gastroenteritis in young children. Specifically, we employ sequence-based and structure-function approaches to investigate the influence of viral protein-protein interactions on (i) the generation of rotavirus reassortants during co-infection and (ii) the fitness of reassortant strains in nature. These studies will enhance our ability to predict strain emergence and aid in rational vaccine design.

For a full listing of Dr. McDonald's publications, visit PubMed.

Education and Training

  • Vanderbilt University: Ph.D.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease: Postdoctoral fellowship

Previous Positions

  • National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
    Senior Research Fellow, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases

Awards and Honors

  • NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence, 2008
  • NIAID Merit Award, 2008

Selected Publications

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