Barbara Ensoli

Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Roma, Latium, Italy

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Publications (146)668.02 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Many attempts have been made or are ongoing for HIV prevention and HIV cure. Many successes are in the list, particularly for HIV drugs, recently proposed also for prevention. However, no eradication of infection has been achieved so far with any drug. Further, a residual immune dysregulation associated to chronic immune activation and incomplete restoration of B and T cell subsets, together with HIV DNA persistence in reservoirs, are still unmet needs of the highly active antiretroviral therapy, causing novel "non-AIDS related" diseases that account for a higher risk of death even in virologically suppressed patients. These "ART unmet needs" represent a problem, which is expected to increase by ART roll out. Further, in countries such as South Africa, where six millions of individuals are infected, ART appears unable to contain the epidemics. Regretfully, all the attempts at developing a preventative vaccine have been largely disappointing. However, recent therapeutic immunization strategies have opened new avenues for HIV treatment, which might be exploitable also for preventative vaccine approaches. For example, immunization strategies aimed at targeting key viral products responsible of virus transmission, activation, and maintenance of virus reservoirs may intensify drug efficacy and lead to a functional cure providing new perspectives also for prevention and future virus eradication strategies. However, this approach imposes new challenges to the scientific community, vaccine developers, and regulatory bodies, such as the identification of novel immunological and virological biomarkers to assess efficacy end-points, taking advantage from the natural history of infection and exploiting lessons from former trials. This review will focus first on recent advancement of therapeutic strategies, then on the progresses made in preventative approaches, discussing concepts, and problems for the way ahead for the development of vaccines for HIV treatment and prevention.
    Frontiers in Immunology 09/2014; 5:417.
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    ABSTRACT: The identification of still unrevealed mechanisms affecting the anti-HIV CD8 T-cell response in HIV-1 infection.
    AIDS 07/2014; · 6.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Tat is a key HIV-1 virulence factor, which plays pivotal roles in virus gene expression, replication, transmission and disease progression. After release, extracellular Tat accumulates in tissues and exerts effects on both the virus and the immune system, promoting immune activation and virus spreading while disabling the host immune defense. In particular, Tat binds Env spikes on virus particles forming a virus entry complex, which favors infection of dendritic cells and efficient transmission to T cells via RGD-binding integrins. Tat also shields the CCR5-binding sites of Env rendering ineffective virus neutralization by anti-Env antibodies (Abs). This is reversed by the anti-Tat Abs present in natural infection or induced by vaccination.
    Retrovirology 06/2014; 11(1):49. · 5.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: HIV infection is characterized by several immune dysfunctions of both CD8 and CD4 T cells as hyperactivation, impairment of functionality and expansion of memory T cells. CD8 T-cell dysfunctions have been associated with increased expression of T-bet, Eomesdermin and pro-inflammatory cytokines, and with down-regulation of CD127. The HIV-1 Tat protein, which is released by infected cells and detected in tissues of HIV-positive individuals, is known to contribute to the dysregulation of CD4 T cells; however, its effects on CD8 T cells have not been investigated. Thus, in this study, we sought to address whether Tat may affect CD8 T-cell functionality and programming.
    AIDS (London, England) 05/2014; · 4.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In addition to contrast human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication, the HIV protease inhibitors (HIV-PI) have reduced tumour incidence or clinical progression in infected patients. In this regard, we have previously shown that, independently of its anti-viral activity, the HIV-PI indinavir (IDV) directly blocks matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 proteolytic activation, thus efficiently inhibiting tumour angiogenesis in vitro, in animal models, and in humans. Herein we investigated the molecular mechanism for IDV anti-angiogenic effect. We found that treatment of human primary endothelial cells with therapeutic IDV concentrations decreases the expression of membrane type (MT)1-MMP, which is the major activator of MMP-2. This occurs for both the constitutive expression of MT1-MMP and that up-regulated by angiogenic factors. In either cases, reduction of MT1-MMP levels by IDV is preceded by the inhibition of the binding of the specificity protein (Sp)1 transcription factor to the promoter region of the MT1-MMP gene in endothelial cell nuclei. As MT1-MMP is key for tumour angiogenesis, these results support the use of IDV or its derivatives in anti-cancer therapy. This is recommended by the low toxicity of the drug, and the large body of data on its pharmacokinetic.
    Angiogenesis 04/2014; · 4.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The role of variable regions of HIV-1 gp120 in immune escape of HIV has been investigated. However, there is scant information on how conserved gp120 regions contribute to virus escaping. Here we have studied how molecular sequence characteristics of conserved C3, C4 and V3 regions of clade C HIV-1 gp120 that are involved in HIV entry and are target of the immune response, are modulated during the disease course. We found an increase of "shifting" putative N-glycosylation sites (PNGSs) in the α2 helix (in C3) and in C4 and an increase of sites under positive selection pressure in the α2 helix during the chronic stage of disease. These sites are close to CD4 and to co-receptor binding sites. We also found a negative correlation between electric charges of C3 and V4 during the late stage of disease counteracted by a positive correlation of electric charges of α2 helix and V5 during the same stage. These data allow us to hypothesize possible mechanisms of virus escape involving constant and variable regions of gp120. In particular, new mutations, including new PNGSs occurring near the CD4 and CCR5 binding sites could potentially affect receptor binding affinity and shield the virus from the immune response.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(4):e95183. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here we describe a prime-boost regimen of vaccination in Macaca fascicularis that combines priming with novel anionic microspheres designed to deliver the biologically active HIV-1 Tat protein and boosting with Tat in Alum. This regimen of immunization modulated the IgG subclass profile and elicited a balanced Th1-Th2 type of humoral and cellular responses. Remarkably, following intravenous challenge with SHIV89.6Pcy243, vaccinees significantly blunted acute viremia, as compared to control monkeys, and this control was associated with significantly lower CD4+ T cell depletion rate during the acute phase of infection and higher ability to resume the CD4+ T cell counts in the post-acute and chronic phases of infection. The long lasting control of viremia was associated with the persistence of high titers anti-Tat antibodies whose profile clearly distinguished vaccinees in controllers and viremics. Controllers, as opposed to vaccinated and viremic cynos, exhibited significantly higher pre-challenge antibody responses to peptides spanning the glutamine-rich and the RGD-integrin-binding regions of Tat. Finally, among vaccinees, titers of anti-Tat IgG1, IgG3 and IgG4 subclasses had a significant association with control of viremia in the acute and post-acute phases of infection. Altogether these findings indicate that the Tat/H1D/Alum regimen of immunization holds promise for next generation vaccines with Tat protein or other proteins for which maintenance of the native conformation and activity are critical for optimal immunogenicity. Our results also provide novel information on the role of anti-Tat responses in the prevention of HIV pathogenesis and for the design of new vaccine candidates.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(10):e111360. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about the effects of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) haplotypes on immunity to primate lentiviruses involving both acquired and innate immune responses. We present statistical evidence of the influence of MHC polymorphism on antiviral immunity of Mauritian cynomolgus macaques (MCM) following simian/human immunodeficiency virus SHIVSF162P4cy infection, involving the production of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines and α-defensins, which may modulate acquired immune responses. During the acute phase of infection, IL-10 correlated positively with viral load and negatively with CD4+T cell counts. Furthermore, α-defensins production was directly correlated with plasma viral RNA, particularly at peak of viral load. When the effects of the MHC were analyzed, a significant association between lower anti-Env binding and neutralizing antibody levels with class IB M4 haplotype and with class IA, IB M4 haplotype, respectively, was observed in the post-acute phase. Lower antibody responses may have resulted into a poor control of infection thus explaining the previously reported lower CD4 T cell counts in these monkeys. Class II M3 haplotype displayed significantly lower acute and post-acute IL-10 levels. In addition, significantly lower levels of α-defensins were detected in class IA M3 haplotype monkeys than in non-M3 macaques, in the post-acute phase of infection. These data indicate that the MHC could contribute to the delicate balance of pro-inflammatory mechanisms, particularly with regard to the association between IL-10 and α-defensins in lentivirus infection. Our results show that host genetic background, virological and immunological parameters should be considered for the design and interpretation of HIV-1 vaccine efficacy studies.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(4):e93235. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV1 and HSV2) are common infectious agents in both industrialized and developing countries. They cause recurrent asymptomatic and/or symptomatic infections, and life-threatening diseases and death in newborns and immunocompromised patients. Current treatment for HSV relies on antiviral medications, which can halt the symptomatic diseases but cannot prevent the shedding that occurs in asymptomatic patients or, consequently, the spread of the viruses. Therefore, prevention rather than treatment of HSV infections has long been an area of intense research, but thus far effective anti-HSV vaccines still remain elusive. One of the key hurdles to overcome in anti-HSV vaccine development is the identification and effective use of strategies that promote the emergence of Th1-type immune responses against a wide range of epitopes involved in the control of viral replication. Since the HIV1 Tat protein has several immunomodulatory activities and increases CTL recognition of dominant and subdominant epitopes of heterologous antigens, we generated and assayed a recombinant attenuated replication-competent HSV1 vector containing the tat gene (HSV1-Tat). In this proof-of-concept study we show that immunization with this vector conferred protection in 100% of mice challenged intravaginally with a lethal dose of wild-type HSV1. We demonstrate that the presence of Tat within the recombinant virus increased and broadened Th1-like and CTL responses against HSV-derived T-cell epitopes and elicited in most immunized mice detectable IgG responses. In sharp contrast, a similarly attenuated HSV1 recombinant vector without Tat (HSV1-LacZ), induced low and different T cell responses, no measurable antibody responses and did not protect mice against the wild-type HSV1 challenge. These findings strongly suggest that recombinant HSV1 vectors expressing Tat merit further investigation for their potential to prevent and/or contain HSV1 infection and dissemination.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(7):e100844. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The p16 (p16) tumor-suppressor protein is a biomarker for activated expression of human papillomavirus oncogenes. However, data are insufficient to determine whether p16 overexpression predicts the risk for progression of low-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). This study was aimed at evaluating the risk for progression to CIN2 or worse during a 3-year follow-up of an unselected series of 739 patients with CIN1 biopsy specimens tested for p16 expression. Positivity of p16 was defined as a diffuse overexpression in the basal/parabasal cell layers. Selection biases were ruled out using a control group of 523 patients with CIN1 biopsies not tested for p16 expression. Analysis was based on the ratio of progression rates. In the first year of follow-up, the 216 patients (29%) with p16-positive CIN1 had a higher progression rate (12.3%) than did the 523 patients with p16-negative CIN1 (2.2%) (rate ratio, 5.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.59-11.71). In the second and third years, differences were smaller (rate ratio, 1.32 and 1.14, respectively) and not significant. The patients with p16-positive CIN1 also had a lower risk for regression to normal in the first year of follow-up (rate ratio, 0.55; 95% confidence interval, 0.42-0.71) and nonsignificant changes in the second and third years (rate ratio, 0.81 and 0.84, respectively). The patients with p16-positive CIN1 had an increased risk for progression that was concentrated in the first year of follow-up. Immunostaining of p16 could have a role in short-term surveillance of patients with CIN1. Further research should focus on midterm/long-term outcomes of p16-positive CIN1.
    International Journal of Gynecological Cancer 11/2013; 23(9):1663-9. · 1.94 Impact Factor
  • SIM 2013, Riccione; 10/2013
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    ABSTRACT: T cells are functionally compromised during HIV infection despite their increased activation and proliferation. Although T cell hyperactivation is one of the best predictive markers for disease progression, its causes are poorly understood. Anti-tat natural immunity as well as anti-tat antibodies induced by Tat immunization protect from progression to AIDS and reverse signs of immune activation in HIV-infected patients suggesting a role of Tat in T cell dysfunctionality. The Tat protein of HIV-1 is known to induce, in vitro, the activation of CD4(+) T lymphocytes, but its role on CD8(+) T cells and how these effects modulate, in vivo, the immune response to pathogens are not known. To characterize the role of Tat in T cell hyperactivation and dysfunction, we examined the effect of Tat on CD8(+) T cell responses and antiviral immunity in different ex vivo and in vivo models of antigenic stimulation, including HSV infection. We demonstrate for the first time that the presence of Tat during priming of CD8(+) T cells favors the activation of antigen-specific CTLs. Effector CD8(+) T cells generated in the presence of Tat undergo an enhanced and prolonged expansion that turns to a partial dysfunctionality at the peak of the response, and worsens HSV acute infection. Moreover, Tat favors the development of effector memory CD8(+) T cells and a transient loss of B cells, two hallmarks of the chronic immune activation observed in HIV-infected patients. Our data provide evidence that Tat affects CD8(+) T cell responses to co-pathogens and suggest that Tat may contribute to the CD8(+) T cell hyperactivation observed in HIV-infected individuals.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(11):e77746. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This short version complies with the intention expressed in the methodological introduction to the full text Italian Guidelines for the use of antiretroviral drugs and the diagnostic-clinical management of people with HIV-1 infection. By definition, this version should not be considered completely exhaustive with respect to the full text version of the Guidelines available at the website: http://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_1301_allegato.pdf.
    The New Microbiologica: official journal of the Italian Society for Medical Virology (SIVIM) 04/2012; 35(2):113-59. · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected women with the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has reduced the onset of uterine cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and halted its progression to cervical carcinoma. We and others demonstrated that the HIV protease inhibitors (HIV-PIs) used in HAART can exert direct antitumour activities also in HIV-free preclinical or clinical models. As uterine cervical carcinoma is a leading cause of death in women independently of HIV infection, herein we assessed the impact of therapeutic concentrations of HIV-PIs including indinavir (IDV), saquinavir (SQV) or ritonavir (RTV) on cells obtained from CIN or cervical carcinoma lesions of HIV-negative women. HIV-PI effects were evaluated by cell invasion, growth or toxicity assays, and by RNA, protein or zymogram analyses. Both SQV and RTV inhibited CIN cell invasion, and this was paralleled by a reduced expression and proteolytic activity of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and 9 in treated cells. SQV and RTV also reduced CIN cell growth rate, but did not affect the invasion or growth of cells derived from highly progressed cervical carcinoma. As MMP-2 and MMP-9 have a key role in CIN evolution into cervical carcinoma, these results support the use of SQV or RTV for the block of CIN clinical progression in either HIV-infected or uninfected patients.
    AIDS (London, England) 02/2012; 26(8):909-19. · 4.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Use of Env in HIV vaccine development has been disappointing. Here we show that, in the presence of a biologically active Tat subunit vaccine, a trimeric Env protein prevents in monkeys virus spread from the portal of entry to regional lymph nodes. This appears to be due to specific interactions between Tat and Env spikes that form a novel virus entry complex favoring R5 or X4 virus entry and productive infection of dendritic cells (DCs) via an integrin-mediated pathway. These Tat effects do not require Tat-transactivation activity and are blocked by anti-integrin antibodies (Abs). Productive DC infection promoted by Tat is associated with a highly efficient virus transmission to T cells. In the Tat/Env complex the cysteine-rich region of Tat engages the Env V3 loop, whereas the Tat RGD sequence remains free and directs the virus to integrins present on DCs. V2 loop deletion, which unshields the CCR5 binding region of Env, increases Tat/Env complex stability. Of note, binding of Tat to Env abolishes neutralization of Env entry or infection of DCs by anti-HIV sera lacking anti-Tat Abs, which are seldom present in natural infection. This is reversed, and neutralization further enhanced, by HIV sera containing anti-Tat Abs such as those from asymptomatic or Tat-vaccinated patients, or by sera from the Tat/Env vaccinated monkeys. Thus, both anti-Tat and anti-Env Abs are required for efficient HIV neutralization. These data suggest that the Tat/Env interaction increases HIV acquisition and spreading, as a mechanism evolved by the virus to escape anti-Env neutralizing Abs. This may explain the low effectiveness of Env-based vaccines, which are also unlikely to elicit Abs against new Env epitopes exposed by the Tat/Env interaction. As Tat also binds Envs from different clades, new vaccine strategies should exploit the Tat/Env interaction for both preventative and therapeutic interventions.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(11):e48781. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Delineation of the immune correlates of protection in natural infection or after vaccination is a mandatory step for vaccine development. Although the most recent techniques allow a sensitive and specific detection of the cellular immune response, a consensus on the best strategy to assess their magnitude and breadth is yet to be reached. Within the AIDS Vaccine Integrated Project (AVIP http://www.avip-eu.org) we developed an antigen scanning strategy combining the empirical-based approach of overlapping peptides with a vast array of database information. This new system, termed Variable Overlapping Peptide Scanning Design (VOPSD), was used for preparing two peptide sets encompassing the candidate HIV-1 vaccine antigens Tat and Nef. Validation of the VOPSD strategy was obtained by direct comparison with 15mer or 20mer peptide sets in a trial involving six laboratories of the AVIP consortium. Cross-reactive background responses were measured in 80 HIV seronegative donors (HIV-), while sensitivity and magnitude of Tat and Nef-specific T-cell responses were assessed on 90 HIV+ individuals. In HIV-, VOPSD peptides generated background responses comparable with those of the standard sets. In HIV-1+ individuals the VOPSD pools showed a higher sensitivity in detecting individual responses (Tat VOPSD vs. Tat 15mers or 20mers: p≤0.01) as well as in generating stronger responses (Nef VOPSD vs. Nef 20mers: p<0.001) than standard sets, enhancing both CD4 and CD8 T-cell responses. Moreover, this peptide design allowed a marked reduction of the peptides number, representing a powerful tool for investigating novel HIV-1 candidate vaccine antigens in cohorts of HIV-seronegative and seropositive individuals.
    Journal of immunological methods 09/2011; 375(1-2):46-56. · 2.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have previously demonstrated that in Ova-immunized mice the increase in intra-macrophage thiol pool induced by pro-GSH molecules modulates the Th1/Th2 balance in favour of a Th1-type immune response. We show now that the same molecules can support a Th1-type over Th2-type immunity against Tat, which is an early HIV-1 regulatory protein and a Th1 polarizing immunomodulator that is increasingly considered in new anti-HIV vaccination strategies. Our results indicate that Tat-immunized mice pre-treated with the C4 (n-butanoyl) derivative of reduced glutathione (GSH-C4) or a pro-drug of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and beta-mercaptoethylamine (MEA) (I-152), have decreased levels of anti-Tat IgG1 as well as increased levels of anti-Tat IgG2a and IgG2b isotypes suggesting a Th1-type response. Moreover, Th1-(IFN-γ and IL-2) Ag-specific cellular responses were detected by ELISPOT assay in splenocytes of the same animals as well as an increase of IL-12 levels in the plasma. These findings suggest that the Th1 immune response to HIV-1 Tat could be further polarized by these molecules. These results together with those previously reported suggest that pro-GSH molecules could be used to modulate the immune response towards different antigens and may be further exploited for inducing specific Th1 immune responses against other HIV antigens as well as other intracellular pathogens in new Tat-based vaccination protocols.
    Vaccine 08/2011; 29(40):6823-9. · 3.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: INTRODUCTION: Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is an angioproliferative disease that occurs in four clinical-epidemiological forms sharing the same immunological and histopathological features, suggesting common etiological and pathogenic factors. Infection with the human herpesvirus 8, cytokine- and angiogenic factor-induced growth together with an immuno-dysregulated state represent fundamental conditions for the development of this tumor. Despite the recent improvements in KS management, it remains an incurable disease. AREAS COVERED: The growing knowledge of KS biology provides multiple opportunities for the development of rational, molecularly targeted therapies. The present review summarizes the current management of KS, including local and systemic conventional therapies, and thoroughly describes the results obtained with new pathogenesis-based anti-KS treatments. EXPERT OPINION: Kaposi's sarcoma represents a paradigm of how the elucidation of disease pathogenesis can drive the development of molecularly targeted treatments. The multifactorial pathogenesis of KS has led to the evaluation of many experimental agents targeting one or more specific factors or pathways involved in the development or progression of the disease. Although targeted therapy so far represents investigational treatment, clinical evaluation of several of these agents is yielding promising results.
    Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 04/2011; 12(11):1669-90. · 2.86 Impact Factor
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    The New Microbiologica: official journal of the Italian Society for Medical Virology (SIVIM) 04/2011; 34(2):109-46. · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The role of volunteer recruitment in HIV vaccine trials has recently been considered particularly with respect to critical issues, such as motivation, psychological assessment and social impact. The preventative and therapeutic phase I trials based on the recombinant biologically active Tat vaccine candidate, sponsored in Italy by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, included a specific centralised procedure (SCP) developed to support both the sponsor and the volunteers during trial enrolment and conduction. This process, which is an integrated, multidisciplinary, biomedical and psycho-socio-behavioural network, represented a novel and important aspect for the conduction and success of the clinical study. A specific flow of information from the sponsor to the population was developed through the SCP which started from the national announcement of the trials (through a press conference and a press release) to the enrolment of the volunteers. To this aim a telephone counselling intervention was performed to supply the scientific information translated in personalised message, allowing to select potential participants prior to the first contact with the clinical sites. Furthermore, the multi-step procedure contributed in reinforcing the motivation to participation and trial retention, providing important hints for the design of standardised enrolment procedures to be used in clinical studies. Indeed, this methodological approach, which foresees the joined participation of researchers and expert of communication, could be followed in future vaccine trials in order to improve the effectiveness of enrolment procedures.
    AIDS Care 03/2011; 23(8):939-46. · 1.60 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
668.02 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1998–2014
    • Istituto Superiore di Sanità
      • Laboratory of Virology
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2001–2013
    • Universita degli studi di Ferrara
      • • Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnologies
      • • Department of Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine
      • • Sezione di Microbiologia
      Ferrare, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  • 2010–2011
    • Università degli Studi di Urbino "Carlo Bo"
      • Department of Biomolecular Science
      Urbino, The Marches, Italy
    • University of the Witwatersrand
      • Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology
      Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
  • 2006–2010
    • University of Rome Tor Vergata
      Roma, Latium, Italy
  • 2006–2009
    • University of Padova
      Padua, Veneto, Italy
  • 1994–2008
    • National Institutes of Health
      • • Branch of Vaccine
      • • Laboratory of Cell Biology
      Bethesda, MD, United States
  • 2005–2007
    • National Cancer Institute (USA)
      • Vaccine Branch
      Maryland, United States
    • Amedeo Avogadro University of Eastern Piedmont
      Novara, Piedmont, Italy
  • 2002–2007
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      • • Department of Clinical Medicine
      • • Laboratory of Virology
      Roma, Latium, Italy