Nazira El-Hage, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, with Tenure; Co-director of the Graduate Program

Immunology & Nano-Medicine

Office: AHC 419E

Phone: 305-348-0674


Curriculum Vitae

Nazira El-Hage earned her Ph.D. from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University Of Kentucky in 2002.  She moved to Virginia Commonwealth University in 2007 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and in 2014, she was promoted to an Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology and Nano-medicine at HWCOM. 

Her research focuses on the underlying mechanisms of HIV-induced pathology in the central nervous system in the context of opioid drug abuse. Furthermore, she has a keen interest in the autophagy pathway and in understanding how this pathway contributes to the neurological disorder associated with HIV and how opioid exacerbates the disorder in HIV-infected glial cells. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) since 2009 and she also received funding from the Florida Department of Health to study the neurological effects of the Zika virus in brain cells and embryonic development, focusing on the autophagy pathway. 


Ph.D., University of Kentucky
M.S., University of Kentucky
B.S., University of Kentucky


El-Hage’s research focuses on:

  • Understanding the mechanisms underlying the brain as an HIV reservoir and which cell types harbor the replication-competent virus.
  • The impact of repeated exposure to opioid drug abuse system on HIV latency and reservoir persistence in the central nervous system.
  • The role of autophagy in the interlinked epidemics between HIV/NeuroAIDS and substance abuse in the central nervous system.
  • The development of nanotechnology drug delivery system targeting HIV-1 latency in the brain and in drug-abusing individuals.


  1. Ojha CR, Rodriguez M, Lapierre J, Muthu Karuppan M, Kashanchi F, El-Hage N (2019). Toll-like receptor 3 regulates Zika virus infection and associated host inflammatory response in primary human astrocytes. PLoS One. PMID: 30735502.
  2. Rodriguez M, Lapierre J, Ojha CR, Muthu Karuppan M, Kashanchi F, El-Hage N (2019). Morphine counteracts the antiviral effect of antiretroviral drugs and causes upregulation of p62/SQSTM1 and histone-modifying enzymes in HIV-infected astrocytes. Journal NeuroVirology. PMID: PMID: 30746609
  3. Ojha CR, Rodriguez M, Lapierre J, Muthu Karuppan MK, Branscome H, Kashanchi F, El-Hage N (2018). Complementary Mechanisms Potentially Involved in the Pathology of Zika Virus. Front Immunol. PMID: 30374352.
  4. Pleet ML, Branscome H, DeMarino C, Pinto DO, Zadeh MA, Rodriguez M, Sariyer IK, El-Hage N, Kashanchi F (2018). Autophagy, EVs, and Infections: A Perfect Question for a Perfect Time. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. PMID: 30406039.
  5. Lapierre J, Rodriguez M, Ojha CR, El-Hage N (2018). Critical Role of Beclin1 in HIV Tat and Morphine- Induced Inflammation and Calcium Release in Glial Cells from Autophagy Deficient Mouse. J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. PMID: 29752681.
  6. DeMarino C, Pleet ML, Cowen M, Barclay RA, Akpamagbo Y, Erickson J, Ndembe N, Charurat M, Jumare J, Bwala S, Alabi P, Hogan M, Gupta A, Hooten NN, Evans MK, Lepene B, Zhou W, Caputi M, Romerio F, Royal W 3rd, El-Hage N, Liotta LA, Kashanchi F (2018). Antiretroviral Drugs Alter the Content of Extracellular Vesicles from HIV-1-Infected Cells. Sci Rep. PMID: 29769566.
  7. Rodriguez M, Lapierre J, Ojha CR, Estrada-Bueno H, Dever SM, Gewirtz DA, Kashanchi F and El-Hage N (2017). Importance of autophagy in mediating HIV and morphine-induced metabolic dysfunction and inflammation in human astrocytes. Viruses. PMID: 28788100.
  8. Ojha CR, Jessica Lapierre J, Rodriguez M, Dever SM, Zadeh MA, DeMarino C, Pleet ML, Kashanchi F and El-Hage N (2017). Interplay between Autophagy, Exosomes and HIV-1 Associated Neurological Disorders: New Insights for Diagnosis and Therapeutic Applications. Viruses. PMID: 28684681.
  9. Rodriguez M, Lapierre J, Ojha CR, Kaushik A, Batrakova E, Kashanchi F, Dever SM, Nair M and El-Hage N (2017). Intranasal drug delivery of small interfering RNA targeting Beclin1 encapsulated with polyethylenimine (PEI) in mouse brain to achieve HIV attenuation. Sci Rep. PMID: 28500326.
  10. Rodriguez M, Kaushik A, Lapierre J, Dever SM, El-Hage N and Nair M (2017). Electro-Magnetic Nano-Particle bound Beclin1 siRNA crosses the Blood-Brain Barrier to attenuate the inflammatory effects of HIV-1 infection in Vitro. J NeuroImmune Pharmacol. PMID: 27287620.

Complete List of Published Work in My Bibliography: