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Biology, Target Search and Drug Discovery

Molecular Factors and Mechanisms of Transmission and Pathogenicity of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus

EC contribution
: € 1 355 811
: 36 months
Starting date
: 01/01/2007
: Avian influenza viruses, pathogenicity, transmission, replication, virulence, vaccines, drugs, diagnosis
Project Number
: SP5B-CT-2007-044098
: -


Epidemics caused by highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIV) are a continuing threat to human health and to the world's economy. This now becomes clearly evident after the emergence of the HPAIV H5N1 subtypes that have infected and killed humans in Asia and Europe. The global dimension of current HPAIV infections of birds and humans highlights an urgent need to increase international and multidisciplinary research effort collaborations to develop new diagnostics, vaccines and drugs.

The EUROFLU consortium integrates interdisciplinary experimental and computational research approaches carried out by 11 partners from four EU Member States and from one Associated Member State. The overall objective of EUROFLU is to study the molecular factors and mechanisms of HPAIV transmission and pathogenesis. In order to build a profound scientific platform that will help to support the European policy makers in the fight against HPAIV, EUROFLU will focus on three major research tasks:

  1. Identifying, characterising and validating HPAIV factors that are involved in the recognition and targeting of the virus to the cellular host receptor, thereby defining host range through advanced computational and biochemical analyses. Special focus will be put on the viral haemagglutinin protein, which binds to sialic-acid coupled cell receptors of human and avian hosts.
  2. Revealing viral and cellular factors and mechanisms that regulate virus replication within the infected cell (and which can therefore determine cell tropism and host specificity) employing diverse virology, molecular- and cell-biology methods. Focus will be on virus/host interactions between viral factors of HPAIV and their crosstalk to cellular factors.
  3. Using chicken and mouse models for in vivo analysis of HPAIV infections of birds and mammals to monitor HPAIV transmission and pathogenicity within organisms. The in vivo characterisation of immune responses and investigation of mechanisms of neurotropism in chicken and in mice upon HPAIV infection will allow the correlation and verification of EUROFLU's experimental and computational results in natural and in experimental host species, respectively.
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