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Biology, Target Search and Drug Discovery

Influence of Viral Proteins of Avian Influenza Virus on the Innate Immune Response of Birds

EC contribution
: € 1 800 000
: 36 months
Starting date
: 01/01/2007
: Avian influenza virus, innate immunity, pathogenesis, susceptibility, transmission, wild bird species, monitoring
Project Number
: SSPE-CT-2006-044372


We are currently facing a continuing infection cycle caused by a highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza virus (hpH5N1) in several countries in Asia. This virus may have the potential to become a pandemic virus. There have been outbreaks of the H5N1 virus in poultry in several countries in Asia since 1997. In 2005 hpH5N1 was first observed outside of Asia in European poultry, which was followed by a fast spread in Europe during February 2006.

The most dangerous property of this hpH5N1 virus is its ability to infect and cause disease in other species than birds including cats, tigers, dogs and stone martens. The INN-FLU consortium integrates nine partners from six EU Member States (Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Poland, France and Greece). The project will contribute to an understanding of virus pathogenesis and virulence determinants in chicken, determine host-pathogen interactions and define the molecular basis for host specificity. It is based on four areas of research:

  1. Characterisation of the virulence of hpH5N1 in several species.
  2. Determination of host factors influenced by AIV infection during the very early phase of infection.
  3. Research on whether different lines of chicken breeds show differences in resistance to hpH5N1 infection.
  4. Investigation of contact points between wild birds and domestic free range poultry and migratory behaviour of birds based on satellite tracking.

Experiments will address the question of whether HA molecules from non-H5 and non-H7 strains can give low pathogenic viruses the potential to become highly pathogenic. Studies on the host-immune response will focus on the antiviral innate immune response in birds, the role of the influenza virus protein NS1 in contributing to virulence in chickens and expression of genes related to the interferon pathway including Mx.

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