Rafal Tokarz, PhD

Associate Research Scientist
Phone: 212.342.3267
Fax: 212.342.9044
Email: rt2249@columbia.edu




Queens College, Flushing, New York, BA, 1999
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, Ph.D., 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, Sameroff S, Hesse RA, Hause BM, Desai A, Jain K, Lipkin WI. Discovery of a novel nidovirus in cattle with respiratory disease.  J Gen Virol. 2015 Apr 27.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tokarz R, Hirschberg DL, Sameroff S, Haq S, Luna G, Bennett AJ, Silva M, Leguia M, Kasper M, Bausch DG, Lipkin WI. Genomic analysis of two novel human enterovirus C genotypes found in respiratory samples from Peru. J Gen Virol. 2013 Jan;94(Pt 1):120-7.
  • Tokarz R, Briese T, Morris G, Ideh R, Chimah O, Ebruke B, Desai A, Haq S, Sameroff S, Howie SR, Lipkin WI. Serotype Analysis of Streptococcus pneumoniae in Lung and Nasopharyngeal Aspirates from Children in The Gambia by MassTag Polymerase Chain Reaction. J Clin Microbiol. 2012 Dec 19.
  • 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
  • Tokarz R, Kapoor V, Wu W, Lurio J, Jain K, Mostashari F, Briese T, Lipkin WI. Longitudinal molecular microbial analysis of influenza-like illness in New York City, May 2009 through May 2010. Virol J. 2011 Jun 9;8:288.
  • 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.
  • Tokarz R, Kapoor V, Samuel JE, Bouyer DH, Briese T, Lipkin WI. Detection of tick-borne pathogens by MassTag PCR. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2009 Apr; 9(2):147-52. 
  • Full publication list: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=rafal+tokarz