Dr. Janowski evaluates and treats children with infections at St. Louis Children's Hospital. His research concentrates on the discovery of novel viruses and determining what diseases these novel viruses can cause in humans. His current focus is on a family of RNA viruses known as astroviruses. For the past 40 years, these viruses have been considered primary pathogens of the gastrointestinal tract. Recently, these viruses have been identified to cause central nervous system infections in humans and other mammals. He has developed the first cell culture and animal model of infection with astrovirus VA1, a recently discovered astrovirus strain that is the most commonly identified astrovirus from cases of human encephalitis in children and adults. Surprisingly, astrovirus VA1 also has the capacity to infect cells of the heart and to cause myocarditis in mice, suggesting this virus could also cause cardiovascular diseases in humans. He aims to understand the mechanisms in which this virus causes disease in the central nervous and cardiovascular systems, and to develop treatments for patients with astrovirus infections.
In addition, Dr Janowski is studying the stem-loop II motif, a highly conserved RNA sequence present in viruses of multiple families, including SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2, and astrovirus VA1. This element is essential for replication of astrovirus VA1, but interestingly, it is dispensable for SARS-CoV-2. The lab is currently studying why this motif can have differing levels of importance for the viral lifecycle, despite being highly conserved across these viruses.