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MEMBERSHIP  ::  Meet the Microbiologist

Meet the Microbiologist

Viruses: their evolution and roles in the evolution of their hosts

Viruses are important for a variety of reasons. This includes the effects viruses can have on their hosts as agents of mortality, but viruses can also provide benefits to their hosts. The studies of viruses in the Lang laboratory range from studying the movement of genes among bacteria by viruses, to the movement of genes between strains of viruses through recombination, to the movement of viruses among different host species and geographic regions. The research on movement of genes among bacteria by viruses is focused on particles called “gene transfer agents”, which look like small bacteriophages but that are produced and controlled by bacterial cells for their function in gene exchange. Studies on gene transfer agents are aimed at understanding their regulation by the producing cells, as well as determining their distribution and relevance in natural environments. With respect to viral evolution, the Lang lab focuses on several different viruses in their natural host systems. One of these is influenza A virus, which possesses a segmented single-stranded RNA genome, and the natural hosts are wild birds. Another is Aleutian mink disease parvovirus, which possesses a single-stranded DNA genome, and the natural hosts are a range of small carnivorous mammals such as mink, skunks and raccoons. For both of these systems the research involves characterizing the viruses circulating in the host animals through genomic sequencing to track their evolution and transmission among species and geographic regions. The scale of study in these projects ranges from focusing on the evolutionary events within single individual animals to what is occurring at regional, continental and inter-continental scales.

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Andrew Lang

The Lang laboratory studies viruses and evolution with a variety of approaches, including molecular biology, biochemistry, genomics and bioinformatics. The lab also performs “traditional” microbiology, with active culturing of novel viruses and bacteria from their natural environments.

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Contact Information
Memorial University of Newfoundland
45 Arctic Ave.
St. John''''s, NL A1C 5S7

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CSM-SCM Secretariat
17 Dossetter Way
Ottawa, ON K1G 4S3

Tel: (613) 421-7229

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