Understanding Viral Emergence

Much of our research is devoted to understanding the mechanisms by which viruses cross species boundaries and emerge in new hosts. For example, why is it that influenza viruses are able to jump to humans from birds and pigs, and sometimes spread widely among us, while viruses like West Nile and hantaviruses seem unable to? We are interested in determining why some types of virus seem intrinsically better able to cross species boundaries than others and the evolutionary determinants of this process. What are the microbial and host barriers involved? Knowledge of this kind is essential because it will help us to predict, prevent, and control major disease epidemics in the future. As case studies we are employing a diverse range of human and animal viruses. We are also interested in using evolutionary informed methods to control pathogens (‘evolutionarily informed disease intervention’) and encourage research projects in this area.