Emerging virus diseases are a major threat to human and veterinary public health. In the last few years, there’s been an undeniable increase in major outbreaks caused by emerging and re-emerging viruses, with alarming examples including Ebola and Zika in people, and bluetongue and Schmallenberg in livestock.
Many factors contribute to this trend in increased emergence, including globalisation. Changes to local ecosystems that disturb the balance between a pathogen and its principal host species, for example as a result of human encroachment into virgin forest, are major drivers. Climate change may also be contributing to the increasing range of vector species, such as mosquitoes.
Many emerging viruses have an RNA genome. This makes them capable of rapid mutation and selection of new variants adapt to a new host.
Our emerging and re-emerging viruses theme overlaps with our research on mechanisms of resistance to infection, giving us a deeper understanding of how viruses transmit between species and become established in new ecological niches.