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Virology & Molecular Plant Pathology

Head of Group: Prof. John Carr

john carr

The group investigates how virus infection influences interactions of plants with other organisms and plants’ ability to withstand environmental stresses. We found that viruses can alter the interactions of their plant hosts with insects, such as aphids, that vector viruses. This means that viruses may be able to enhance the rate at which they are spread between plants. We have also found evidence that viruses may ‘pay back’ susceptible hosts by making infected plants more resilient to drought or making the plants more attractive to pollinators. In collaboration with partners in sub-Saharan Africa the group has explored ways of translating our basic research into novel approaches to disrupt insect-mediated virus transmission. 

Carr montageWe work at multiple scales to understand how viruses manipulate plants and the interactions of plants with other organisms. Clockwise: a black bean aphid (Aphis fabae) is tethered by a fine gold wire to allow its feeding behaviour on a virus-infected plant to be electronically monitored (credit: FO Wamonje); a researcher wearing protective equipment releases bees into a walk-in flight arena to determine if these pollinators prefer visiting flowers of healthy or virus-infected plants (credit: AM Murphy and S Jiang); a confocal laser scanning microscope image of the distribution within a plant epidermal cell of a fluorescently tagged viral counter-defence protein (green) (credit: LG Watt), and research group members set up an aphid trap within an experimental field plot in East Africa (credit: FO Wamonje and JP Carr).


The Department has carried out a comprehensive COVID-19 risk assessment process and has opened to allow research work to take place. To ensure the safety of our staff, a range of measures to reduce building occupancy and allow strict social distancing have been introduced, including increased cleaning and hygiene regimes. We are currently not accepting visitors so please continue to contact us by email until further notice.