Rafal Tokarz, PhD


Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Phone: 212.342.3267
Fax: 212.342.9044
Email: rt2249@cumc.columbia.edu


Queens College, Flushing, New York, BA, 1999
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, PhD, Molecular Microbiology, 2005


Tick-borne infections
Etiology of respiratory disease
Pathogen surveillance
Multiplex PCR assay development


Dr. Tokarz's research focuses on microbial discovery and the epidemiology of human infectious diseases. His primary interests center on investigating respiratory and tick-borne pathogens and understanding their roles in human disease.

Dr. Tokarz's work in the field of tick-borne disease has been driven by two main hypotheses: 1) co-infections in human-biting ticks are common and can result in human poly-microbial infections; and 2) viral infections represent a proportion of undiagnosed tick-transmitted infections. He designed and implemented one of the first multiplex PCR assays that targeted tick-borne agents and was one of the first scientists to document high rates of pathogen co-infections in ticks within New York State. Recent work has focused on exploring the diversity of the tick virome. He performed the first investigation of the virome of the three main human-biting ticks in New York State and thus far has discovered 20 novel tick-associated viruses. He is now examining the potential for transmissibility and pathogenesis of these viruses.

In an effort to understand the etiology of respiratory diseases, Dr. Tokarz has participated in pathogen surveillance studies on specimens originating from Asia, Africa, Europe, South and North America. As part of this work, he used cutting edge molecular platforms to identify and characterize novel viral agents. Dr. Tokarz identified and characterized the first defined cluster of one such virus, enterovirus D68, an emerging agent implicated in a severe outbreak of pediatric respiratory disease in the US in 2014. He performed the first comprehensive phylogenetic characterization of this virus, identified the three main clades circulating worldwide and developed a classification system now employed by investigators in this field. In his current work, Dr. Tokarz is examining the pathogenesis of this virus and how its genetic variation influences the severity of disease.


Tokarz R, Tagliafierro T, Caciul A, Mishra N, Thakkar R, Chauhan LV, Sameroff S, Delaney S, Wormser GP, Marques A, Lipkin WI. Identification of immunoreactive linear epitopes of Borrelia miyamotoi. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2020 Jan;11(1):101314. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2019.101314

Sanchez-Vicente S, Tagliafierro T, Coleman JL, Benach JL, Tokarz R. Polymicrobial Nature of Tick-Borne Diseases. mBio. 2019 Sept;10(5). doi: 10.1128/mBio.02055-19

Tokarz R, Tagliafierro T, Sameroff S, Cucura DM, Oleynik A, Che X, Jain K, Lipkin WI. Microbiome analysis of Ixodes scapularis ticks from new York and Connecticut. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2019 Jun;10(4):894-900. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2019.04.011

Tokarz R, Sameroff S, Tagliafierro T, Jain K, Williams SH, Cucura DM, Rochlin I, Monzon J, Carpi G, Tufts D, Diuk-Wasser M, Brinkerhoff J, Lipkin WI. Identification of Novel Viruses in Amblyomma americanum, Dermacentor variabilis, and Ixodes scapularis Ticks. mSphere. 2018 Mar-Apr;3(2). doi:10.1128/mSphere.00614-17

Tokarz R, Mishra N, Tagliafierro T, Sameroff S, Caciula A, Chauhan L, Patel J, Sullivan E, Gucwa A, Fallon B, Golightly M, Molins C, Schriefer M, Marques A, Briese T, Lipkin WI. A multiplex serologic platform for diagnosis of tick-borne diseases. Sci Rep. 2018 Feb;8(1):3158. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-21349-2

Tokarz R, Tagliafierro T, Cucura DM, Rochlin I, Sameroff S, Lipkin WI. Detection of Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Powassan Virus in Ticks by a Multiplex Real-Time Reverse Transcription-PCR Assay. mSphere. 2017 Mar-Apr2(2). doi: 10.1128/mSphere.00151-17

Tokarz R, Williams SH, Sameroff S, Leon LS, Jain K, Lipkin WI. Virome analysis of Amblyomma americanum, Dermacentor variabilis, and Ixodes scapularis ticks reveals novel highly divergent vertebrate and invertebrate viruses. J Virol. 2014 Oct 1;88(19):11480-92. doi: 10.1128/JVI.01858-14

Tokarz R, Sameroff S, Leon MS, Jain K, Lipkin WI. Genome characterization of Long Island tick rhabdovirus, a new virus identified in Amblyomma americanum ticks. Virol J. 2014 Feb 11;11:26. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-11-26

Tokarz R, Haq S, Sameroff S, Howie SR, Lipkin WI. Genomic analysis of coxsackieviruses A1, A19, A22, enteroviruses 113 and 104: viruses representing two clades with distinct tropism within enterovirus C. J Gen Virol. 2013 Sep;94(Pt 9):1995-2004. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.053462

Tokarz R, Firth C, Madhi SA, Howie SR, Wu WY, Sall AA, Haq S, Briese T, Lipkin WI. Worldwide emergence of multiple clades of enterovirus 68. Gen Virol. 2012 Sep;93(Pt 9):1952-8. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.043935-0

Tokarz R, Jain K, Bennett A, Briese T, Lipkin WI. Assessment of poly-microbial infections in ticks in New York State Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 2010 Apr; 10 (3): 217-21. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2009.0036

Full publication list: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=rafal+tokarz

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