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Maria S. Salvato, PhD

Academic Title:


Primary Appointment:


Secondary Appointment(s):

Microbiology and Immunology

Additional Title:

Head of the Laboratory of Arenavirus Disease & Vaccines; Professor in the Division of Infectious Agents and Cancer, Institute of Human Virology


725 W. Lombard Street, Room 546

Phone (Primary):

(410) 706-1368


(410) 706-1992

Education and Training

  • 1977: PhD in molecular virology, University of California, Berkeley with Dr. Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat
  • 1978-80: Post-doctoral research at University of California, San Francisco with Dr. Christine Guthrie
  • 1980-85: Senior Scientist at MRC Cambridge, UK with Dr. Sydney Brenner.
  • 1985-90: Assistant Member at Scripps Clinics and Res. Foundation with Dr. Michael Oldstone
  • 1990-2000: Faculty at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
  • 2000-present: Professor at Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland and Member of the Department of Medicine


Since 1985, the Salvato laboratory has conducted research on the molecular/cell biology of arenaviruses like LCMV and Lassa fever virus, and their virus:host interactions. Most arenaviruses are rodent-borne pathogens that can cause serious disease in primates. Dr. Salvato completed the first arenavirus sequence in 1989, discovering a new viral gene product, p11 Z. Together with Dr. K. L. Borden, she showed that p11 Z was the smallest known zinc-binding RING protein and that it interacts with PML, eIF4E and other host proteins.  Although most of her research involves the arenaviruses, she has also collaborated on studies of HIV, SIV and SHIV to co-author 30 publications with Dr. C. David Pauza. Using the macaque model for AIDS, she inoculated monkeys with neutralizing antibodies to FasL in order to improve the acquisition of antiviral immunity. In collaboration with Dr. Igor Lukashevich, her laboratory also developed monkey models for viral hemorrhagic fever and tested live attenuated Lassa fever vaccines in primates. When she moved from Wisconsin to Maryland in 2000, she initiated transcriptome and proteomic profiling of mildly- and virulently-infected rhesus macaques to find biomarkers that would predict the development of hemorrhagic fever. She discovered that virulent infections suppress antiviral responses in the infected cells, resulting in greater viremia as well as greater inflammatory responses from uninfected bystander cells. Her laboratory is currently exploring approaches that can restore hematopoietic homeostasis in viral hemorrhagic fever.

Research/Clinical Keywords

Hemorrhagic fever, Lassa virus, vaccines, transcriptome profiles, animal models, primates, murine models, virus-specific immunity, innate signaling.

Highlighted Publications

Salvato, MS editor "Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses: Methods and Protocols"  Springer Verlag,:NY (2017, in Press) 28 chapters.

Postler TS, Clawson AN, Amarasinghe GK, Basler CF, et al. Possibility and Challenges of Conversion of Current Virus Species Names to Linnaean Binomials. Syst Biol. 2016 Oct 22. pii: syw096. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syw096.

Zapata, JC, Poonia B, Bryant J, Davis H, Ateh E, George L, Crasta O, Zhang Y, Slezak T, Jaing C, Pauza CD, Goicochea M, Moshkoff D, Lukashevich IS, Salvato MS. 2013. An attenuated Lassa vaccine in SIV-infected rhesus macaques does not persist or cause arenavirus disease but does elicit Lassa virus-specific immunity. Virology J. 10: 52.

Poonia B, Pauza CD, Salvato MS. Role of the Fas/FasL pathway in HIV or SIV disease. Retrovirology. 2009 Oct 15;6:91. Review.

Djavani MM, Crasta OR, Zapata JC, Fei Z, Folkerts O, Sobral B, Swindells M, Bryant J, Davis H, Pauza CD, Lukashevich IS, Hammamieh R, Jett M, Salvato MS. 2007. Early blood profiles of virus infection in a monkey model for Lassa Fever. J. Virol. 81: 7960-7973.

Lukashevich IS, PattersonJ, Carrion R, Moshkoff D, Ticer A, Zapata J, Brasky K, Geiger R, Hubbard GB, Bryant J, Salvato MS. 2005 A Live attenuated vaccine for Lassa fever made by reassortment of Lassa and Mopeia Viruses. J Virol 79:13934-13942.

Additional Publication Citations

Zapata JC, Carrion R, Patterson JL, Crasta O, Zhang Y, Mani S, Jett M, Poonia B, Djavani M, White DM, Lukashevich IS, Salvato MS. 2013. Transcriptome analysis of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells exposed to Lassa virus and to the attenuated Mopeia/Lassa reassortant 29 (ML29) , a vaccine candidate. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 7: 1-13.

Zapata JC, Goicochea M, Nadai Y, Eyzaguirre L, Carr J, Tallon LJ, Sadzewicz L, Myers G, Fraser-Liggett C, Djavani M, Lukashevich IS, and Salvato MS. 2013. Genetic variation in vitro and in vivo of an arenavirus reassortant between Mopeia and Lassa viruses.  J Virol. in press epub PMID 24335292.

Hayes, MW, Carrion R, Nunneley J, Medvedev Andrey, Salvato MS, Lukashevich IS. 2012. Pathogenic Old World Arenaviruses inhibit TLR2/Mal-dependent pro-inflammatory cytokines in vitro. J Virol. 86:7216-26.

Goicochea MA, Zapata JC, Bryant J, Davis H, Salvato MS, Lukashevich IS.2012 Evaluation of Lassa virus vaccine immunogenicity in a CBA/J-ML29 mouse model. Vaccine. 30:1445-52.

Zapata JC, Pauza CD, Djavani MM, Rodas JD, Moshkoff D, Bryant J, Ateh E, Garcia C, Lukashevich IS, Salvato MS. Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection of macaques: A model for Lassa fever. Antiviral Res. 2011 92: 125-138.

Research Interests

The Salvato laboratory investigates virus-host interactions using animal models, genomic profiling, and basic molecular virology. Recent studies explored arenavirus pathogenesis using non-human primate models for Lassa fever. Lassa fever vaccine research, has resulted in two live-attenuated candidates: one (ML29) is a reassortant between Lassa virus and Mopeia virus, and the other (YF/LAS) is a recombinant between the Yellow Fever vaccine (YF17D) and the Lassa glycoprotein. The ML29 candidate is broadly cross-reactive and protects primates from Lassa fever.

The YF/LAS is effective in protecting guinea pigs but not primates. Profiling of disease progression during viral hemorrhagic fever has revealed many host-responses that can be detected in blood before viremia is detectable, and that could be prognostic for a virulent as opposed to a benign infection. We are using transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabolomics to profile healthy, diseased and vaccinated primates. The profiles of vaccinated monkeys will provide surrogate markers for successful vaccination. Profiling host responses reveals many recurring themes from virus to virus. For example, interferon-induced pathways are amplified after most viral infections, and most viruses have mechanisms to avoid such anti-viral host responses. Many viruses upset apoptotic pathways, cell cycling and the structures of subcellular macromolecular complexes. Virus infections also alter the motility and physiological location of the infected host cells.

In collaboration with Dr. Pauza's laboratory we have explored the role of the Fas/FasL apoptotic pathway in AIDS progression by treating SIV-infected primates with monoclonal antibodies to FasL. Life-time, central memory, and virus-specific cell-mediated immunity are prolonged in the anti-FasL treated animals. The exploration of host responses that restrict virus replication will yield many targets for anti-viral therapy.

Awards and Affiliations

  • 1978-1980: Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Fellow in the lab of Dr. Christine Guthrie
  • 1980-1985: Member of the Scientific Staff, The Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England (with Sydney Brenner, MD)
  • 1983-1985: American Heart Foundation Fellow in the lab of Dr. Sydney Brenner
  • 1985-1988: Senior Research Associate, Scripps Clinic and Res Foundation (with Michael Oldstone, MD)
  • 1988-1990: Assistant Member, Scripps Clinic and Res Foundation.
  • 1990-2000: Assistant to Full Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
  • 1990-1992: Edited the volume "The Arenaviridae" for the Plenum series "The Viruses".
  • 1995-1997: Reviewed grants on the International and Cooperative Projects Study Section for NIH
  • 1997-2001: Empaneled on the International and Cooperative Projects Study Section for NIH
  • 2000-present: Professor, Institute of Human Virology and Department of Medicine, University of Maryland, Baltimore
  • 2000–2010: Chair of Arenavirus Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV)
  • 2008-2009: Member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Assessment of Future Scientific Needs for Live Variola Virus (Drs. Patrick Kelley, Ann Arvin, Don Burke, Diane Griffin, Stephen Ostroff, Peter Patriarca, CJ Peters, David Relman, Mark Slifka, Paula Traktman)
  • 2010-2016: Associate Director for IHV-Global Virus Network (Director Robert Gallo, MD)
  • 2010-2016: Executive secretary to the Scientific Leadership Group of the Global Virus Network
  • 2010-present: Member of the Arenavirus Study Group of the ICTV

Grants and Contracts

HIV Persistence and Coronary Pulmonary Hypertension - Until January 2018

EU Commission Grant Horizons-2020
STARBIOS - Until July 2020

Community Service

The Salvato Lab is hosting a University of Maryland Meyerhoff Scholar for Summer studies (2017)

Professional Activity

Editing, Reviewing grants, Laboratory research, Teaching virology, Guest lectures, Collaborating with Dr. Robert Redfield on African biosecurity projects.

Lab Techniques and Equipment

Biosafety level 2 and biosafety level 3 facilities house flow cytometer, ultracentrifuges, spectrophotometers, tissue culture incubators and microscopes, PCR machines, gel boxes for protein and nucleic acid analyses, clean stations, biosafety cabinets, blotting and scanning equipment, easy access to animal models.

Links of Interest