Steven M. Varga, PhD

Steven M. Varga, PhD

phone: 319-335-7784
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Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Graduate Student Development
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
Professor of Pathology
University of Iowa
3-532 Bowen Science Building
51 Newton Rd
Iowa City, IA 52242


My laboratory is interested in studying the contribution of virus-specific T lymphocytes to enhanced disease and immunopathology during virus infection. Our laboratory studies the mouse model of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in young children worldwide. An experimental RSV vaccine developed in the United States during the 1960’s led to exacerbated disease in vaccinated infants on subsequent natural infection. It is believed that the immune system was largely responsible for the enhanced disease exhibited by the vaccinated children. We are currently studying the mechanisms by which virus-specific CD4 T cells mediate damage within the infected lung as well as their role in causing systemic illness.

Our work has recently demonstrated that the vast majority of epitope-specific CD4 T cells express a conserved Vb14 T cell receptor and that mice depleted of these cells in vivo fail to develop enhanced disease following experimental RSV infection. In a related series of studies, we are examining the peptide specificities of the virus-specific CD4 T cells and determining which factors contribute to the development of virus-specific Th1 and Th2 CD4 T cells in vivo. The goal of our studies is to gain a better understanding of the immune determinants that lead to RSV vaccine-enhanced disease so that safer and more effective vaccines can be developed in the future.


BS, Biology, University of Notre Dame
PhD, Immunology, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Post Doctorate, Pulmonary Immunology, Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research, University of Virginia