Robert L. Atmar, M.D.
Department of Medicine
Respiratory Viruses/Environmental Virology Research
Dr. Atmar has two principal research interests. The first is in the study of respiratory viral pathogens, including their epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. He is of the investigators in the Respiratory Pathogens Research Unit, and our unit is currently study-ing several respiratory pathogens (viral and bacterial) and their impact on different populations. The emphasis of his research is on the role of these pathogens in persons with chronic respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive lung disease. This includes the role of respiratory viruses as precipitants of asthma and exacerbations of chronic obstructive lung disease and the interaction of respiratory viral infections with nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae in patients with chronic bronchitis.
His second area of interest is in enteric viruses and environmental virology. Contamination of the environment with viruses shed in the stool has led to a number of epidemic outbreaks of viral illness over the last several decades. The principal stool-shed viruses implicated in these outbreaks are the Norwalk-like viruses (NLVs) and hepatitis A virus (HAV). These viruses either are difficult to culture (HAV) or cannot be grown at all (NLVs) in cell culture. One aspect of my research focuses on the development of molecular methods to detect these viruses in environmental samples (e.g., water) and in foodstuffs. However, the significance of detecting viral RNA in environmental samples using molecular methods is unknown because the presence of viral RNA in a sample does not equate with infectivity of the virus. Thus, the laboratory also is pursuing methods to evaluate the potential infectivity of NLV RNA by adapting Norwalk virus for growth in cell culture and through the development of a reporter system that requires at least partial viral replication.
The long term goal of these studies is to develop methods that can be used to study the epidemiology and transmission of these viruses, leading to improved strategies for prevention and ultimately to improved water and food safety.
M.D., Baylor College of Medicine
Residency, Baylor College of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza
Houston, TX 77030