Over the past few years, disease outbreaks with new pathogens such as swine flu, EHEC, Ebola, MERS or Zika have highlighted the urgent need for more research in this area. Research is required in order for us to be better prepared in the event of an outbreak of unexpected pathogens which spread rapidly and are often fatal. The question, however, is how do we prepare ourselves for the unknown? Scientists at the DZIF are faced with this problem in question and have developed different strategies to tackle it. The aim is to decode the diversity of viruses and track their routes of spread and transmission: from arthropods to wild animals and farm animals all the way to humans. New virus isolation and sequencing techniques are consequently being developed.
Gene Sequencing and Viral Diversity
One important project involves identifying new viruses using lineage and sequencing data. Sources of analyses are insects and the faeces of insect-eating mammals. Further reservoirs of pathogenic viruses in Europe include rats and wild birds. At the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut) scientists investigate viral diversity in these animals by means of gene sequencing. However, discovering new viruses in human or animal samples remains a challenge even with the most state-of-the-art gene sequencing methods. Some viruses are being used as models for the investigation of the susceptibility of farm animals and wild birds.