The focus of ANTIGONE is on zoonotic viruses and bacteria: viruses and bacteria that originate from the animal kingdom. Well-known examples are influenza viruses that originate from birds and pigs, and Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium transmitted by ticks, causing Lyme disease. There are lots of other examples of zoonotic viruses and bacteria that vary in their animal hosts (e.g., birds, rodents, cattle) and in how they (potentially) can be transmitted to humans (e.g., by air, food, mosquitoes, ticks or direct contact). Moreover, not all of these zoonotic pathogens are at the same ‘level of emergence’. Some have been able to sporadically transmit from animals to humans yet cannot transmit from human to human. Others sporadically cause human-to-human infectious outbreaks, but (currently) lack the ability and opportunity to establish sustained outbreaks in humans. Finally , others have been able to make the full transition from zoonotic pathogens into exclusively human pathogens.
In our research studies, we will look at a carefully selected set of zoonotic viruses and bacteria that cover these different hosts, modes of transmission and levels of emergence. The table below lists these model zoonotic viruses and bacteria (click to enlarge). These include some well-known pathogens such as influenza or Escherichia coli (more specifically the EHEC bacterium), but also some that are less known to the public such as Duvenhage virus and Anaplasma phagocytophilum.