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Researchers seek virus genes that enable animal hepatitis E strains infect people

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X.J. Meng, a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech and a virologist at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, has received a four-year, nearly $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to better understand the genetic elements that allow hepatitis E virus to transfer from animals to people.
Meng is the principal investigator in the new NIH award to identify the virus gene or genes that enable the animal hepatitis E virus strains in pigs and rabbits to infect humans. His laboratory in the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease is one of the leading international research centers on hepatitis E virus, which causes an estimated 20 million liver infections each year.
"We are trying to pinpoint the genetic elements in the virus genome responsible for cross-species infection," Meng said. "If we can understand what viral gene or genes allow the virus to transfer from one animal species to another, then we can design better strategies to fight cross-species virus infection."

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