Steven M. Varga, PhD


Director, Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology
Professor of Microbiology
Professor of Pathology

Contact Information

Office: 3-532 Bowen Science Building
51 Newton Rd
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-7784

Lab: 3-501 Bowen Science Building
51 Newton Rd
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-8433

Email: steven-varga@uiowa.edu
Web: Varga Lab Website


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

Education/Training Program Affiliations

Department of Microbiology Graduate Program
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Immunology
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Translational Biomedicine
Medical Scientist Training Program

Research Summary

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.

Center, Program and Institute Affiliations

Center for Immunology and Immune-based Diseases
Helen C. Levitt Center for Viral Pathogenesis
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center

Selected Publications

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Knudson C, Hartwig S, Meyerholz D, Varga S.  RSV vaccine-enhanced disease is orchestrated by the combined actions of distinct CD4 T cell subsets.  PLoS Pathog.  2015 March 13. 11(3):e1004757.

Knudson C, Weiss K, Hartwig S, Varga S.  The pulmonary localization of virus-specific T lymphocytes is governed by the tissue tropism of infection.  J Virol.  2014 August. 88(16):9010-6.

McDermott D, Knudson C, Varga S.  Determining the breadth of the respiratory syncytial virus-specific T cell response.  J Virol.  2014 March. 88(6):3135-43.

Fulton R, Weiss K, Pewe L, Harty J, Varga S.  Aged Mice Exhibit a Severely Diminished CD8 T Cell Response following Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection.  J Virol.  2013 December. 87(23):12694-700.

Olson M, McDermott D, Varga S.  The initial draining lymph node primes the bulk of the CD8 T cell response and influences memory T cell trafficking after a systemic viral infection.  PLoS Pathog.  2012 December. 8(12):e1003054.

McDermott D, Varga S.  Quantifying antigen-specific CD4 T cells during a viral infection: CD4 T cell responses are larger than we think.  J Immunol.  2011 December 1. 187(11):5568-76.

Weiss K, Christiaansen A, Fulton R, Meyerholz D, Varga S.  Multiple CD4+ T cell subsets produce immunomodulatory IL-10 during respiratory syncytial virus infection.  J Immunol.  2011 September 15. 187(6):3145-54.

Fulton R, Meyerholz D, Varga S.  Foxp3+ CD4 regulatory T cells limit pulmonary immunopathology by modulating the CD8 T cell response during respiratory syncytial virus infection.  J Immunol.  2010 August 15. 185(4):2382-92.

Olson M, Varga S.  Fas ligand is required for the development of respiratory syncytial virus vaccine-enhanced disease.  J Immunol.  2009 March 1. 182(5):3024-31.

Olson M, Hartwig S, Varga S.  The number of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-specific memory CD8 T cells in the lung is critical for their ability to inhibit RSV vaccine-enhanced pulmonary eosinophilia.  J Immunol.  2008 December 1. 181(11):7958-68.

Date Last Modified: 06/06/2016 - 13:17:48