Kevin Hoffman: Winner (2019) of the Best Article Award from Pathogens and Disease
Kevin Hoffman, MD/PhD student at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York (USA), is the winner of the 2019 article award from Pathogens and Disease, as the first author of the winning paper: Sex differences in cytokine production following West Nile virus infection: Implications for symptom manifestation. He successfully defended his PhD in 2018 and is currently finishing his MD.
This is the first time Pathogens and Disease has presented such an award, and the paper received the most votes from the Editorial Board of the journal. We interviewed Kevin to find out more about the inspiration behind this paper:
Could you provide a brief, simple overview of the topic your paper covers?
We had previously published a study where we identified correlations between cytokines -markers of inflammation in the human body- and eventual symptoms in people who donated blood to the American Red Cross and also had an early, not yet detectable West Nile virus infection. When we looked back at the data, we noticed that the women in our study reported significantly more symptoms than the men, which prompted us to look at possible inflammatory contributions to this difference.”
Why is it important for us to learn about the sex differences in the immune response to West Nile virus infection?
Data from both our group and others suggests that men and women may have differing immune responses to viral infections. Identifying these differences is important so that we can use science to benefit everyone in society. Our study was the first to identify sex differences in cytokine production following West Nile virus infection. This is specifically important because it may eventually lead to the discovery sex-specific factors that could help fight infection in West Nile virus or other similar viruses including dengue virus or Zika virus.”
What encouraged you to perform research this area of microbiology?
I was interested in a hypothesis I had read about that suggested that women evolved to have a faster and stronger inflammatory response to infection in order to protect any potential fetus.
In our previous study we had found that a faster, stronger inflammatory response to West Nile virus actually correlated with more eventual symptoms. Combining these ideas, we decided to look at outcomes by sex and see if there were inflammatory differences.”
What do you see as the next steps in this area of research?
Our original study was not designed with the idea of separating by sex, so I think its likely that a new study with a larger cohort would appropriately increase statistical power and allow for a more detailed analysis.
Additionally, there are likely sex-specific markers, such as estrogen and androgen, that could be examined alongside the inflammatory markers.
Finally, while our current study gives us a good starting point for identifying targets to look at in order to explain sex differences in West Nile virus infection, there is important in vitro and in vivo work to be done to see how these inflammatory markers actually function to effect different outcomes in men and women.”
Read the 2019 award winning paper: Sex differences in cytokine production following West Nile virus infection: Implications for symptom manifestation