When the Zika virus epidemic swept through South America in 2015, Emma Mohr, MD, PhD (Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases) was a pediatric infectious diseases fellow. “That’s when I became interested in congenital virus infection research,” reflected Mohr. “There was a great need to combine pediatric clinical expertise with basic virology to figure out the virus associated with the epidemic of microcephaly.”
Today Mohr’s research focuses on improving the health of children affected by congenital viral infections. She studies Zika virus and how it results in developmental deficits in prenatally exposed children. “We still have a long way to go in developing effective interventions for affected pregnancies and infants, and developing effective prevention approaches,” stated Mohr. Her goal is to improve these developmental outcomes, first by identifying early predictors of deficits, and secondly by identifying correlates of protection for new therapeutics.
Mohr’s recent scholarly work includes a study of infant macaques, titled “Quantitative definition of neurobehavior, vision, hearing and brain volumes in macaques congenitally exposed to Zika virus.” Mohr and co-authors pioneered an approach for quantitatively defining neurodevelopment, vision, hearing and brain structure in infant macaques exposed to Zika virus in utero. This translational animal model enables researchers to identify early predictors of deficits and immune correlates of protection in a controlled environment.
Mohr’s engagement in independent, hypothesis-driven research in pediatrics recently led to a new honor: being peer-nominated and elected to the Society for Pediatric Research (SPR). As a newly elected member, she will join an international society of multidisciplinary pediatric researchers. Membership marks the individual’s standing as an internationally recognized pediatric researcher. It also provides a gateway for investigators to enhance their own research through annual conferences and journal publications. This interdisciplinary communication fosters advancements in the field of pediatric research, and ultimately, in the treatment and care of children.