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Department of Genetics


Research interests

Charlotte Houldcroft’s group focuses on DNA virus evolution on time frames of a few days (within a single patient) to millennia (ancient DNA from before the last ice age), and the health consequences of pathogen evolutionary histories.

DNA viruses are some of the most ancient and successful pathogens which infect humans, and they have diverse mechanisms to evade our innate and adaptive immune systems. Some DNA viruses have pandemic potential, such as adenoviruses. We know relatively little about their genomic diversity within the community or about how our immune systems respond to new genotypes, which are generated by recombination.

There is also much more to be learned about the deep evolutionary history of DNA viruses such as the herpesviruses, and why this ubiquitous family of viruses causes disease in some people but not others. This includes disease at primary infection (Epstein-Barr virus and infectious mononucleosis) and after years or decades of latent infection (Burkitt’s lymphoma or nasopharyngeal carcinoma). We study the role that viral genetic diversity plays human disease, and how ancient evolutionary processes have shaped viral genomes circulating today.

Selected publications

Ancient herpes simplex 1 genomes reveal recent viral structure in Eurasia. Guellil… Houldcroft CJ and Scheib C. Biorxiv, 2022.

Ancient Viruses: How infectious diseases arrived in the colonial Americas. Pimenoff & Houldcroft CJ. eLife, 2021. doi: 10.7554/eLife.72791

Assessing anti-HCMV cell mediated immune responses in transplant recipients and healthy controls using a novel functional assay. Houldcroft CJ et al. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 2020. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.00275

Identification of novel recombinant adenovirus genotypes in children from Bangladesh. Houldcroft CJ, Beale, Sayeed, Qadri, Dougan & Mutreja. Microbial Genomics, 2018. doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000221

Inferring the hominin origin of herpes simplex virus 2 from fossil, epidemiological and phylogenetic data. Underdown, Kumar & Houldcroft CJ. Virus Evolution, 2017. doi: 10.1093/ve/vex026