A common feature of many novel viral infections affecting humans or animals is their emergence from another animal species, which acts as a reservoir for the virus.
The reservoir, or natural host, typically isn’t affected by the virus, probably due to co-evolution over thousands of years. In contrast, when the virus crosses species boundaries and infects either humans or other animals, it can cause particularly severe, life-threatening disease.
Understanding why some species – and individuals – are resistant to diseases, while others are devastated by them, gives us a powerful basis for developing new therapies. Our work in this field is paving the way for new treatments which will tackle the virus infections associated with severe disease.