Mandy Paz

PhD Candidate, Biochemistry

My name is Amanda Paz Herrera, and I’m from San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Ever since I was little, I became interested in infectious diseases, especially those caused by viruses. A tiny infectious virus can wreak havoc in society, as we know now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was also the case with viruses such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses which have caused outbreaks since the 1960s. 

To combat diseases caused by viruses, it is important not only to have appropriate treatments, but also appropriate diagnostics. In places like my country, Honduras, when a patient presents with symptoms such as fever, fatigue, aches, nausea or vomiting, the culprit could be anything from Dengue virus to Zika, Chikungunya, among others. The same challenge occurs in places with Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks, because there are other viruses that lead to similar symptoms.

For this reason, we study the use of aptamers, short chains or DNA or RNA that can recognize a specific target, which in my case is the Marburg and Ebola virus surface proteins. Surface proteins help viruses enter their host’s cells, and mess with their host’s biology. Using aptamers as “recognition agents” can help us develop potential diagnostic devices, but at the same time can help us better understand the biology and molecular details of the viral surface proteins. 

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