Welcome to the Atwood Lab!

           Welcome to the Atwood Laboratory of Molecular Virology at Brown University. Our laboratory has been studying viruses in the family Polyomaviridae  since 1995. Viruses belonging to this family are continually being discovered. Currently there are 73 species that are taxonomically divided into four genera: Alphapolyomavirus, Betapolyomavirus, Gammapolyomavirus, and Deltapolyomavirus.  

          Polyomaviruses infect a wide range of host species including both New and Old World monkeys, bats, horses, humans, elephants, mice, badgers, sea lions, birds, cattle, fish, dolphins, and raccoons. The natural history of virus infection in each of these species, though far from understood, is generally one in which the virus establishes lifelong and asymptomatic persistent infections. 

           The human polyomaviruses consist of 13 species, four of which cause disease. Two of these, the Merkel cell polyomavirus and the trichodysplasia spinulosa–associated polyomavirus are associated with dysregulated cell growth and cancer.  Our laboratory focuses on studying two of the originally discovered human polyomaviruses known as JC polyomavirus (JCPyV) and BK polyomavirus (BKPyV). JCPyV and BKPyV establish long-term persistent infection in greater than half the world’s population and infection with them is generally asymptomatic.  In immunosuppressed or immunomodulated patients JCPyV can gain access to the central nervous system where it causes a debilitating and often fatal demyelinating disease known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. BKPyV does not cause central nervous system disease but rather causes polyomavirus-associated nephropathy in kidney transplant patients and hemorrhagic cystitis in bone marrow transplant recipients.