21552-Relich, Ryan
Faculty

Ryan F. Relich, PhD

Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology & Laboratory Medicine

Bio

Dr. Ryan Relich is an American Board of Medical Microbiology-certified medical microbiologist who is passionately interested in all facets of diagnostic microbiology and laboratory medicine, especially laboratory directorship, infectious disease epidemiology and pathology, new diagnostic test development and evaluation, pathogen discovery, and viral ecology. In his current academic position at the Indiana University School of Medicine, he is actively involved in fellow, resident, and student teaching, and research involving in vitro diagnostic product development, clinical trials, and emerging virus ecology. As an employee of Indiana University Health, Dr. Relich serves as the Section Director of Clinical Virology and Associate Medical Director of the Divisions of Clinical Microbiology and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Relich also serves as Section Director, Clinical Microbiology and Serology for Eskenazi Health. Dr. Relich is immensely interested in the ecology of emerging viruses, pandemic preparedness, novel virus discovery and characterization, and establishing best practices for manipulating highly infectious clinical specimens for routine testing. For more information on Dr. Relich's research interests, please click on the "Research" tab below.

Titles & Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
  • Education
    2011 PhD Miami University
    2005 BS Clarion University of Pennsylvania
    2004 BS Clarion University of Pennsylvania
  • Research

    Emerging viral diseases pose a significant threat to the health and safety of the global community. Since the start of the 21st century, a number of novel viruses, including avian influenza A H7N9 virus, Bundibugyo virus, Heartland virus, human metapneumovirus, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and, most recently, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiologic agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), have emerged in the human population and have proven to be formidable threats to public health. In addition, known viruses such as chikungunya virus and Zika virus have become established in new locations, including tropical regions in the Western Hemisphere. The emergence of these and other pathogens have exposed many weaknesses in global infectious disease readiness and response infrastructures, and have revealed the need to better understand where these agents come from and what factors govern their spillover from natural reservoirs into the human population. A common factor in almost all outbreaks of novel viral pathogens is the involvement of one or more animal species, including birds, mammals (e.g., bats and rodents), and arthropods (e.g., ticks and mosquitoes), that serve as reservoirs, intermediaries, or vectors. By investigating the relationships between viruses, their reservoirs and vectors, and human and animal hosts, as well as possible drivers of their emergence (e.g., human encroachment on wild lands), it will be possible to better predict viral emergence so that either preventive or abatement countermeasures can be implemented in a rapid time frame.  

     

    Research in my laboratory is currently focused on four specific areas concerning emerging viruses:

     

    1. Surveillance for emerging pathogenic viruses in arthropods collected in Indiana and abroad. By using a combination of classical and modern methods, including viral culture, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and next-generation sequencing, we seek to determine the prevalence of several emerging pathogenic viruses in possible vector and reservoir species endemic to Indiana and abroad. Work is performed at both biosafety level (BSL)-2 and BSL-3, if cultivation of risk group-3 viruses is required for further analysis. To do so, we have partnered with Project Vector Shield, an Indiana University Movement Ecology working group, to capture, identify, and analyze ticks and mosquitoes from Indiana for viruses such as Bourbon virus, Heartland virus, Lone Star virus, Powassan virus, and others. In addition, we will soon begin collaborations with scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) and the Mayo Clinic to assess the neurovirulence of clinical and field isolates of California encephalitis serogroup viruses, a large group of mosquito-borne orthobunyaviruses that include Jamestown Canyon virus, Inkoo virus, and La Crosse virus, among others. Another collaboration with the New England College of Osteopathic Medicine will focus on the prevalence of tick-borne viruses in tick populations gathered from Maine.

     

    2. Surveillance for emerging pathogenic viruses in bats and rodents collected in Indiana and Central America. Similar to our surveillance work for arthropod-borne viruses, we will surveil native and exotic bats and rodents for emerging, and potentially pathogenic, viruses. These two groups of animals comprise the largest mammalian species diversity on the planet and are known to be reservoirs of an enormous number of viruses, including well-known pathogens such as arenaviruses (e.g., Lassa virus), coronaviruses (e.g., MERS-CoV), filoviruses (e.g., Ebola virus), hantaviruses (e.g., Sin Nombre virus), lyssaviruses (e.g., rabies virus), paramyxoviruses (e.g., Nipah virus), and many others. We wish to determine the prevalence of potentially pathogenic viruses, including a few of those just mentioned, among native and neotropical bats and rodents. Through collaborations with researchers at Indiana University and the NIH, we will begin our studies by analyzing neotropical bat species by using viral culture, PCR, and next-generation sequencing. 

     

    3. Investigating the pathogenicity of tick-borne viruses endemic to the U.S. Midwest. Bourbon virus (BRBV) and Heartland virus (HRTV) are two relatively recently discovered tick-borne viruses that are known to be virulent human pathogens. Both of these viruses have caused significant morbidity and mortality in a small number of human hosts, suggesting that these viruses, although currently rarely encountered, could pose serious dangers to at-risk populations in the future if they become more prevalent. To that end, we wish to characterize the pathogenesis of these viruses in both cell culture and in animal models in order to understand how they cause disease and, if possible, identify therapeutic and/or preventive countermeasures. In the future, we plan to assess BRBV and HRTV pathogenicity in collaboration with researchers at the NIH RML and other institutions.

     

    4. Development and refinement of diagnostics for emerging viruses, including arenaviruses, bunyaviruses, filoviruses, orthomyxoviruses, and paramyxoviruses. In addition to our other interests, we are passionate about developing new technologies and methods for the diagnosis of emerging viral diseases and refining currently existing diagnostics to make them field-deployable or otherwise better in terms of their analytical sensitivity, specificity, and turnaround time. Collaborations with outside institutions, including the NIH, are already underway to determine the utility of commercially available influenza diagnostic tests for detecting novel influenza A viruses (e.g., H7N9 and H5N1 strains), the ability of a rapid multiplex PCR system to detect variants of MERS-CoV, and the strain inclusivity of a variety of multiplex PCR systems that are designed to detect high-consequence pathogens such as Ebola, Lassa, and Nipah viruses.

     

    Research Collaborators:

     

    1. Indiana University Project Vector Shield:

        Daniel Becker, PhD,Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

        Ellen Ketterson, PhD, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

        Keith Clay, PhD, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.

        Oghenekaro Omodior, PhD, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

     

    2. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

        Hideki Ebihara, PhD

        Elitza Theel, PhD

     

    3. New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, Biddeford, ME.

        Meghan May, PhD 

     

    4. NIH RML, Hamilton, MT.

        Heinz Feldmann, MD, PhD, Chief, Laboratory of Virology and Disease Modeling and Transmission Section

        Karin Peterson, PhDSenior Investigator, Neuroimmunology Unit

        Vincent Munster, PhD, Chief, Virus Ecology Unit

     

    I am also a member of the IU School of Medicine Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine's Industry-Sponsored Clinical Research Group, which is headed by Dr. Christopher Emery, another Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine faculty member. More information on this program, it's faculty, and research interests, please click on this link: https://medicine.iu.edu/research/clinical/in-vitro/.

     

    Resources:

     

    Bats

    1. Bats of Indiana (Indiana Department of Natural Resources)

    2. Dr. Becker's Personal Website

     

    Mosquitoes and Ticks

    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tick Identification Guide

    2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Geographic Distribution of Ticks that Bite Humans

    3. Flies and Mosquitoes of North America

    4. Mites and Ticks of North America

    5. Purdue University Medical Entomology: Mosquitoes of Indiana

     

    Rodents

    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Rodents in the United States that Carry Hantavirus

  • Professional Organizations
    American Society for Clinical Pathology
    American Society for Microbiology
    American Society for Virology
    Pan American Society for Clinical Virology
    South Central Association for Clinical Microbiology
  • Clinical Interests

    Dr. Relich is very interested in the diagnosis of infectious diseases, especially viral diseases, and implementation of new diagnostic methods such as matrix-assisted laser desorption-ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS), real-time polymerase chain reaction, and next-generation sequencing for the identification of pathogens. In addition, he is interested in utilizing classical virological methods, such as cultivation, serology, and electron microscopy, for detection of viruses in clinical specimens.

  • Awards
    Org: Indiana University School of Medicine
    Desc: Clinical Pathology teaching Award
    Scope: Department
    Date: 2018-06-15

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