Viruses are vehicles which transmit biological information, reprogramming the function of human, animal or plant cells to produce progeny virions. Viral pathogens are very small, often with a very simple structure. Nevertheless, viral pathogens like HIV or the hepatitis C virus (HCV) threaten the health of many millions of individuals. The Institute for Experimental Virology comprises three research groups that focus on hepatitis viruses (HCV, HEV), HIV-1, respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) and Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and ist based at the TWINCORE in Hannover.
According to WHO estimates, approximately 71 million individuals are chronically infected with HCV. As a consequence of chronic infection, many patients develop an inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) which can compromise the function of the organ, leading to fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Fortunately, HCV therapies have been much improved and today efficacious directly acting antivirals (DAAs) are available. However, major challenges remain: These therapies are expensive thus limiting access to treatment. Moreover, the vast majority of HCV patients is not diagnosed and due to the slow onset of liver disease is not aware of their infection. Finally, therapy-induced cure does not protect from HCV reinfection. Therefore, development of a prophylactic vaccine is an important clinical need and major challenge.
The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), like HCV, is distributed globally. RSV can cause severe lower respiratory tract infections; particularly in small children and in immunocompromised patients, for instance transplant recipients. Globally RSV accounts for 33.4 million cases of acute lower respiratory tract infections (ALRI) and between 53 and 199 thousand deaths due to RSV-associated ALRI annually (Nair D, et al. Lancet 2010; 375:1545-55). Currently, there are few treatment options available and no active vaccination that prevents RSV infection is licensed.
For information on current projects of the research group Experimental Virology please visit the TWINCORE website.
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