Foodborne and waterborne viral infections are increasingly recognised as causes of illness in humans. The most commonly implicated pathogens (calicivirus, Hepatitis A virus) can not be readily be cultured, but recent advances in molecular virology have enabled the development of the sensitive methods that are needed for their detection and typing. The lack of international standardisation, however has precluded full use of the molecular information for tracking of outbreaks across borders, and for elucidation of the major transmission routes. In this proposal we aim to allow more rapid and internationally standardised assessment of the spread of foodborne viruses, including elucidation of the mechanisms of emergence of novel variants, by standardisation of methods, the use of a common database, and epidemiological follow-up of international foodborne viral infections.
The project team has set the following overall objectives:
- To study the importance of enteric viruses as causes of illness across Europe, with a special focus on multinational outbreaks of infection with Norwalk-like viruses and hepatitis A virus.
- To develop novel, standardised, rapid methods for virus detection and typing to be used in all participating laboratories.
- To establish the framework for a rapid, prepublication exchange of epidemiological, virological and molecular diagnostic data.
- To determine which are the high-risk foods and major transmission routes of food-borne viral infections in the different countries and between countries.
- To describe the pattern of diversity within and between countries, and identify potential pandemic strains at the onset.
- To investigate the mechanisms of emergence of these strains, including the possibility of spill-over from animal reservoirs.