Our studies on the interspecies barriers aim to identify key factors that determine exposure and transmission of viruses and bacteria from wild animals and domestic animals to humans. The studies will be divided into those on pathogens transmitted by (arthropod) vectors (e.g., mosquito’s and ticks), on those transmitted in other ways (nonvector-borne, e.g., by air or food), and on pathogenic Escherichia coli.Research on human exposure to non vector-borne zoonotic pathogens. We aim to identify and correlate factors determining the opportunity of a pathogen to transmit to humans by addressing all relevant aspects of the interspecies barrier. These aspects embrace pathogen- and animal host-specific factors in close connection to environmental, ecological, epidemiological, arthropological, and behavior factors. Together, they determine the likelihood of humans to be exposed to numbers of pathogens exceeding the minimal infectious dose. Model pathogens studied: Lagos Bat virus, Duvenhage virus, Newcastle disease virus, Henipah viruses, SARS coronavirus, Influenza A viruses, Coxiella burnetti, Mycobacterium bovis, Streptococcus suis
Research on human exposure to vector-borne zoonotic pathogens. The ultimate stage of the transmission of vector-borne pathogens to human is strongly dependent on crosstalk between the pathogen and the immune system of its vector. By use of pathogen-arthropod infection models, we aim to identify key vector- and pathogen-specific factors on vector competence that predict animal-to-human transmission and enhance our awareness for potential vector-borne pandemics.
Model pathogens studied: Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever virus, Rift Valley Fever virus, Japanese Encephalitis virus, Gouleakovirus, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Borrelia burgdorferi.
Research on human exposure to pathogenic Escherichia coli. Our research in this area falls into two complementary parts, one focusing on the identification of potential reservoirs of pathogenic E. coli in domestic animals, wildlife, humans and the environment, the other on the evolution of the outbreak strain EHEC O104:H4 leading to its emergence, and on the role of plant foods. The research is expected to result in the identification of the prevalence of virulence factors/pathogenic E. coli in the environment and animal and human reservoirs, the assessment of the role of emerging antibiotic resistance genes, and in the determination of potential resources of exposure for the general public. We also expect to determine the roles of stx2-harboring bacteriophages, outer membrane vesicles, CTX-M-15 plasmid, and AAF/I plasmid in the emergence of the outbreak strain EHEC O104:H4, as well as to understand whether and how this pathogen survives and interacts with different plant foods.