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Timothy Minogue, PhD: miRNAs for Ebola Virus

Timothy Minogue, PhD, discusses his presentation on miRNAs for Ebola and the capabilities of the host profiling side and the pathogen-derived side.

In a presentation at European Congress for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (ECCMID 2019) on the innovative application of transcriptomics to biomarker infections, Timothy Minogue, PhD, department chief of the Diagnostic Systems Division with the United States Army Medical Research Institute, presented on micro-RNAs (miRNAs) for Ebola virus.

Contagion® spoke to Minogue in an exclusive interview to learn about his research and presentation on what is being regarded as a new path being explored to understand the pathogenesis and for the development of prognostic biomarkers.

Interview transcript (modified slightly for readability):

Contagion®: Can you explain the capabilities of miRNAs for Ebola?

Minogue: Micro RNAs (miRNA) for Ebola have 2 contexts. There is the host profiling side, where essentially you can develop classifiers for miRNAs that would be indicative of infection — whether that be Ebola or other pathogens. And then there is the pathogen-derived side where essentially the particular pathogen encodes miRNAs that impacts virulence pathogenesis, etc.

So, for me, those are diagnostic targets that may be indicative of particular etiologies.

Contagion®: What is the current status of research for miRNAs for Ebola?

Minogue: So, for Ebola, there is a variety of research that has been done on the host side looking at the impact of the VSV vaccine, as well as other profiling efforts to look at what is impacted by Ebola infection. There is some preliminary work on the viral derived side. There’s a lot more that has been done with herpes and flaviviruses, etc. So, it’s a bit of a nascent field for Ebola.

Contagion®: Can you speak to why it is critical to make new developments for Ebola while a large outbreak is ongoing?

Minogue: The outbreak that is going on right now is a bit more contained than the last outbreak in 2014. Within that particular outbreak, it was critical to apply efficacious diagnostics for containment, triaging — essentially determining whether or not a patient had Ebola. So, there were Ebola wards set up versus non-Ebola wards. So, efficacious determination of whether or not a patient had Ebola was pretty critical. So, miRNAs, for us, are a potential way to use biomarkers, both on the pathogen and the host side to essentially establish whether a patient has Ebola.

Contagion®: Are there any other aspects of your presentation that you wish to discuss?

Minogue: From the host side, I think it’s key that you establish — whether or not it’s my research or someone else’s – that the profile that you’re essentially generating miRNA or biomarkers in general, is indicative of a specific etiology, as opposed to a general classifier of infection. I think we’ve started to establish that.

I think the other thing that we’re starting to get into is, that there are a variety of other pathogens, both bacterial and viral, that encode for miRNAs that would be potentially useful in using this particular type of research.