The Division of Infectious Diseases is recognized as one of the best global programs for infectious disease research. Investigators in our division use a well-rounded approach involving basic, translational, clinical, epidemiological, and social/behavioral studies to tackle some of the most pressing infectious diseases affecting the health of North Carolinians and vulnerable populations around the world.
Our faculty’s research is supported by the outstanding resources, instrumentation, and training provided by 14 different schools/colleges, over 50 core facilities and centers, and a large network of UNC Health affiliated hospitals and clinics that span across the state of North Carolina. Research in our division is also bolstered by strong collaborative partnerships with institutions and organizations in Central/South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia. More information can be found on the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases website.
Our division has made seminal contributions to the study of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, emerging infections including coronaviruses, Dengue, Zika, and Ebola, and infections in immunocompromised and hospitalized individuals. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has used this expertise to lead local, national, and international pandemic responses and develop cutting-edge antiviral agents, in vivo models, vaccines, and therapeutics for COVID-19.
Underlying the development of innovative HIV approaches to prevent, treat, and cure HIV is the need for basic knowledge of how HIV establishes infection, causes disease, and persists in the body. Our cutting-edge research to uncover the molecular and cellular determinants of HIV infection, pathogenesis, and persistence is supported in part by state-of-the-art resources made available by the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), HIV Cure Center, Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication (CARE), Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease (CGIBD), and the International Center for the Advancement of Translational Science (ICATS) at UNC. Our researchers also partner with government, industry, and private foundation sponsors to develop and perform pre-clinical pharmacokinetic, efficacy and safety studies of novel strategies for HIV prevention, treatment, and eradication. A recent highlight of the basic and translational HIV research performed by investigators is the first demonstration of systemic HIV latency reversal, a critical step towards HIV eradication.
Clinical research is necessary for developing HIV vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and control strategies. The UNC CFAR HIV Clinical Cohort provides researchers with an invaluable resource for clinical studies that includes a large specimen repository paired with comprehensive clinical, demographic, behavioral, and socioeconomic data. UNC is also a clinical site for the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS), which collects longitudinal data from women living with HIV including medical and health history, behavior, socio-demographics, physical examination results, and laboratory parameters. The Global HIV Treatment and Prevention Clinical Trials Unit at UNC works with the AIDS Clinical Trial Group (ACTG) and HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) to conduct clinical trials related to HIV prevention, treatment, and cure at local and global sites. Groundbreaking clinical studies led by UNC investigators include the Breastfeeding, Antiretroviral, Nutrition (BAN) study and the Treatment and Prevention Study HPTN 052.
UNC has one of the top-ranked epidemiology departments in the world and HIV epidemiology features prominently. Epidemiological studies provide insight into HIV prevalence and disease outcomes in different regions and communities. Information regarding the modes of HIV transmission and risk factors for HIV acquisition within different communities combined with demographic, social, behavior, and socioeconomic data help inform targeted prevention and treatment approaches. Our investigators are especially interested in the epidemiologic aspects of HIV infection in women, minorities, immigrants, and incarcerated individuals.
An improved understanding of the social and behavior dynamics in key populations is necessary to ensure access to equitable and effective health care services and the successful implementation of HIV prevention, treatment, and cure approaches. Our researchers use multiple platforms to engage local communities to understand social, cultural, and perceptions towards sexual health issues and then empower these communities to develop targeted strategies to promote access to health services. Our team also develops technology tailored to specific communities to disseminate sexual health information and encourage healthy behavioral changes. Examples of social and behavior research conducted by our investigators include the Behavioral and Technology (BAT)-Lab and the Social Entrepreneurship to Spur Health (SESH) project, a partnership that joins researchers from Southern Medical University Hospital and the UNC Project-China to organize social HIV research in low and middle-income countries, especially China.
New and rapidly expanding infectious diseases are critical health problems for developed and developing regions. Our researchers tackle current and rapidly evolving regional and global health threats including COVID-19, Ebola, Lassa Fever, Dengue, Zika, and West Nile. This work is facilitated by collaboration sites in the U.S., South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe through IDEEL, UNC-Project Nicaragua, UNC-Project Liberia. Investigators in our division were able to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by using their prior experience combating emerging pathogens around the world and by taking full advantage of their existing research collaborations and networks. UNC-Chapel Hill is the highest ranked U.S. university in the world for coronavirus research. In addition to studying fundamental aspects of coronavirus infection and pathogenesis and developing new in vivo models our faculty have studied COVID-19 transmission within different communities and have led multiple clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
Immune compromised individuals are more susceptible to acquiring infections which can cause more severe disease due to the absence of an appropriate immune response. Infections in immune compromised individuals may present with atypical symptoms and progress more rapidly. Our investigators study the effect of host-pathogen interactions on clinical outcomes in immune compromised patient populations including stem cell/solid organ transplant, cancer, and burn patients to develop targeted therapies for the prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections. Research performed by our faculty has been transformative in evaluating SARS-CoV-2 infection in immune compromised individuals and uncovering that some infections in transplant patients can be traced to the patient’s own microbiome and not environmental microbes.
The use of invasive devises and procedures in patient care increases the risk for acquiring bacterial, viral, and fungal infections which threatens patient outcomes. In order to prevent and reduce the number of hospital-associated infections, investigators in our division monitor the incidence of hospital-associated infections and evaluate strategies to improve the disinfection and sterilization of reusable medical and surgical devices, promote hand hygiene, and prevent the transmission of infectious agents-especially multi-drug resistant organisms. Our researches are also focused on preventing the transmission of infections to hospital staff and their families. In this regard, our faculty have been key to developing and implementing policies and procedures to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to UNC Chapel Hill hospital staff and to their families.
As academic clinicians, we perform research that moves patient care forward, including clinical trials that look at new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Volunteers may participate for the opportunity to receive cutting-edge treatments for specific conditions, and to help others. Explore our searchable database to find clinical trials in the Department of Medicine.Find Clinical Trials