Siyuan Ding, PhD, an assistant professor of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received the 2023 Ann Palmenberg Junior Investigator Award from the American Society of Virology. The award recognizes junior investigators who have made significant contributions to the field of virology and who display exceptional promise.
Ding studies intestinal viruses such as rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea and vomiting in infants and young children. He has made important contributions to understanding how rotavirus infects intestinal cells and inhibits the immune response. Recently, he also reported an innovative approach to making a vaccine against norovirus, another virus that also causes vomiting and diarrhea, by piggybacking on the highly effective vaccines for rotavirus.
Ding’s expertise in intestinal viruses proved unexpectedly crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. While SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was initially described as a respiratory virus, research by Ding and others showed that the virus also could infect human intestinal cells. The discovery explained why people with COVID-19 sometimes develop gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. The same study showed that the virus is unlikely to be spread through contact with vomit or feces, an important finding at a time when there was still much confusion about how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted.