The epidemic outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) represents serious health and economic threats. The global dimension of the currently emerging HPAIV highlights an urgent need to increase efforts for international and multidisciplinary research collaboration and the development of new diagnostics, vaccines and drugs. The ultimate objective of the EUROFLU project is to fill the knowledge gaps concerning the molecular factors and mechanisms of HPAIV transmission and pathogenesis.
This objective will be reached through integration of interdisciplinary experimental research approaches and bio-informatics analyses. The STREP has three major aspects. One is to identify, characterize and validate HPAIV-factors that are involved in the re cognition and targeting of the virus to the cellular host receptor, thereby defining host range. Special focus will be put on the viral hemagglutinin protein, which contains the binding site for the sialic-acid containing host cell receptor.
The second is to reveal viral and cellular factors and mechanisms that regulate virus replication within the infected cell and can therefore determine cell tropism and host specificity. Focus will be on virus/host-interactions including viral factors from different HPAI V (H5 and H7, and H5/H7-reassortants) and cellular factors. A third aspect is the use of mouse and chicken models for in vivo analysis of HPAIV infections of mammals and birds to monitor HPAIV-transmission and pathogenicity within organisms. The in vivo characterization of immune responses and investigation of mechanism of neurotropism in mice and chicken after HPAIV-infection will finally allow correlation and verification of findings from the biochemical and molecular works with natural and experimental host species.
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