GLOBAL VIRUS NETWORK HOSTS SIXTH SHORT COURSE

Top GVN Experts Inspire Rising International Virologists

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, August 29, 2019: The Global Virus Network (GVN) earlier this month held its 6th Annual Short Course in Basic and Translational Virology on July 28-August 3 for 18 early-career human and animal virologists from Argentina, Bolivia, Germany, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Nigeria, South Korea and United States of America. The preeminent one-week course on basic, translational and clinical aspects of viruses featured world-renowned researchers drawn from GVN Centers of Excellence, encompassing 51 Centers of Excellence and nine affiliates in 30 countries and comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans and some animals. The Short Course is designed to counter a declining number of researchers entering the field of human and animal virology.

The announcement was made by Robert Gallo, MD, Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor, GVN and Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President, GVN.

“The annual GVN Short Course is a unique opportunity I wish I had when I was new to the field,” said Gallo, who is also The Homer and Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder & Director, Institute of Human Virology (IHV), University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence. “Scientific research challenges, such as developing an effective preventive HIV vaccine candidate, abound. It is incumbent upon my colleagues and I to cultivate an environment to advance and train burgeoning medical virologists, and to prepare them to take collective responsibility for current and future viral threats.”

“This year’s agenda included presentations from GVN experts in hepatitis, hepatocellular carcinoma, human T-cell leukemia virus, human immunodeficiency virus, measles, arboviruses, Ebola, Lassa fever, bioinformatics, influenza, human papilloma viruses, polio and other enteroviruses, bio-surveillance, biosafety and biosecurity, antiviral drug discovery, laboratory diagnostics, vaccine development and One Health,” said Bréchot. “Participants visited GVN Centers of Excellence at the IHV and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where they received an insectary tour. They also visited the National Institutes of Health for a tour of the National Library of Medicine and to hear presentations from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Fogarty International Research Center.”

At the end of the annual course, participants elect a fellow participant as the “next emerging leader in virology” based on leadership and expertise. This year’s nominee, who will return next year as a speaker, is Matilu Mwau, MB, ChB, MTM, DPhil, Chief Research Officer, Kenya Medical Research Institute. Past nominees include Florian Krammer, PhD (2014), Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA; Christina Gavegnano, PhD (2015), Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University, USA; Miguel Garcia-Knight, PhD (2016), Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias Microbiológicas, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico; Yuki Furuse, MD, PhD (2017), Assistant Professor at the Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences at Kyoto University, Japan; and, Elysse Grossi-Soyster, MS, (2018) Laboratory Manager & Researcher, LaBeaud Lab, Stanford University School of Medicine.

“The GVN Annual Short Course is intense and comprehensive,” said Mwau. “We were trained by renowned experts including, Drs. Robert Gallo and Scott Weaver, on the most important emerging and reemerging viral diseases. By the end of the course, I had already decided that my infectious diseases research interests must be adjusted to capture these realities.”

“The GVN short course is a unique opportunity to learn first-hand from the experts who have generated much of the cutting edge research that forms the basis of our understanding of viral outbreaks causing the worst diseases in the world today,” said Allison Totura, PhD, a participant of this year’s course and ORISE Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Viral Pathogenesis Branch, Virology Division, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. “To be able to gain the perspective of collective leaders in the many aspects of medical virology on where the field stands as well as where it is going is an unparalleled resource to early career scientists. Although I have a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology, this course helped to fill gaps in my didactic training that can only be provided by the best of the best in the fields of basic and translational science. One of the greatest benefits of the course is the connections made with virologists studying similar pathogens, as the GVN works to link virologists around the globe who have similar interests, but might not otherwise connect with each other.”*

This year’s GVN Short Course speakers, in addition to Gallo and Bréchot, among others, included: Konstantin Chumakov, PhD, Associate Director for Research, Office of Vaccines Research and Review, U.S. Federal Drug Administration; José Esparza MD, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, IHV and formerly of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization; Genoveffa Franchini, MD, Senior Investigator, Vaccine Branch, Head, Animal Models and Retroviral Vaccines Section, National Cancer Institute, NIH; Robert Garry, PhD, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Associate Dean for the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, Tulane Medical School; Diane Griffin MD, PhD, University Distinguished Service Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; RADM Peter Kilmarx, MD, FACP, FIDSA, Deputy Director, Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health (NIH); Shyam Kottilil, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Director, Division of Clinical Care and Research, IHV; Christopher Kratochvil, MD, Professor, Associate Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research Chief Medical Officer, UNeHealth, University of Nebraska Medical Center; Mary Marovich, MD, Director, Vaccine Research Program, Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH; Gene Morse, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, SUNY Distinguished Professor, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Director of the UB Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences, Co-Director of the SUNY Global Health Institute, University at Buffalo; Ab Osterhaus, PhD, DVM, Director, Research Center for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses, Professor, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, CEO, Artemis One Health Foundation; Manizhe Payton, MPH, Director, Office of Clinical Site Oversight, Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH; Richard H. Scheuermann, PhD, Director, La Jolla Campus. J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI); and, Scott Weaver, MS, PhD, John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Human Infections and Immunity, John S. Dunn Distinguished Chair in Biodefense, Scientific Director, Galveston National Laboratory, The University of Texas Medical Branch.

The GVN is a global authority and resource for the identification and investigation, interpretation and explanation, control and suppression, of viral diseases posing threats to mankind. It enhances the international capacity for reactive, proactive and interactive activities that address mankind-threatening viruses and addresses a global need for coordinated virology training through scholarly exchange programs for recruiting and training young scientists in human and animal virology. The GVN also serves as a resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice about viral disease threats, prevention or response strategies, and GVN advocates for research and training on virus infections and their many disease manifestations.

The GVN will host its 12th International meeting in Colombia, Medellin, September 13-15, 2020.

*The information contained in this press release does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the Government and no official endorsement should be inferred.

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, comprised of leading human and animal virologists from 30 countries. The GVN’s mission is to combat current and emerging pandemic viral threats through international collaborative research, training the next generation of medical virologists, and advocacy. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Media Contact:
Nora Samaranayake, GVN
410-706-8614
nsamaranayake@gvn.org

A Summary of Recent Advances in Ebola Treatment

August 21, 2019

Only two years ago, neither a vaccine cure for the Ebola Virus, nor effective antivirals existed to prevent Ebola Virus Disease. Recovery for those infected was through the strength of their own immune system, and according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors treated patients while keeping them well hydrated, and providing supportive care, helping them to breathe to boost the immune system which offered a better chance to fight off the disease. Doctors attempted to give the patients blood serum transfusions from the antibodies of those who survived Ebola. The current wave, 2018-2019, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is the second deadliest ever. Untreated patients have a 70% death-rate; while, vaccinated persons have a 90% survival rate. Last summer, 1,800 people perished in the DRC (World Health Organization and BBC News, August 13, 2019).

Today, two new antibody-based therapies, REGN-EB3, led by Neil Stahl, PhD, Executive Vice President of Research and Development at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and mAB114, under the direction of Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), were recently discovered most effective against the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, based on synthetic, monoclonal antibodies and interruption of the virus life-cycle. Previously, drug treatment, ZMAPP/MAPP of Biopharmaceuticals carried a 49% fatality rate, and Remdesivir from Gilead has a 53% fatality rate. Of the four new treatments, in November 2018, randomized trials in four towns, REGN-EB3 and mAB-114 proved most effective. Regeneron’s REGN-EB3 is most recommended with 29% fatality rate reduction; followed by NIAID’s mAB114 at a 34% rate reduction, (BBC News, August 13, 2019). When treated early, the mortality drops to 6%, and 11%, respectively.

Treatment challenges exist, as refrigeration of RGN-EB3 and AB-114 make distribution difficult. Small molecule antivirals serve better in urban and remote areas, not requiring refrigeration, and thus, complementing antibody-based therapies. The virus, moreover, may mutate, becoming antibody resistant; therefore, options are needed.

Meanwhile, Merck vaccine candidate, rVSV-ZEEBOV, showed 100% protection rate, during a Phase 3, single-dose, cluster, randomized, ring trial in Guinea; where 5,837 subjects given the shot were not infected ten days after immunization. V920 (rVSV-ZEBOV-GP) is a recombinant, replication-competent Ebola vaccine, consisting of a vesicular stomatitis which has been genetically engineered to express a glycoprotein from the Zaire strain, provoking a naturalized immune response. The trial was conducted by a team of researchers from the WHO, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Health Ministry of Guinea and Médecins Sans Frontières, among others. “We believe the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, the Word Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation (Precision vaccinations, Carlson, Robert & EPG Health, August 2, 2017). Marie-Paule Kieny and Anne Marie Henao Restrepo, et al., performed the first successful Phase 1 and 2 Ebola vaccine clinical trial, March 23, 2016-January 20, 2017, (Lancet, February 04, 2017).

Merck’s clinical trials are in their final stages, and are expected completion by the end of 2020. The vaccine is designed for post-exposure settings, including high fatality adult, maternal and neonatal groups. Screening, population mapping and a ring strategy is performed, identifying high-risk areas. Ebola treatment centers provide, in addition, aggressive rehydration, correction of electrolyte imbalances and nutritional support. This supportive care is a prerequisite to the use of novel therapeutics or vaccines.

Drugs alone will not solve the problem, however, community-foreign preparedness, regional capacity-building, vaccine prevention, surveillance and therapeutic treatment will all be required. The disease is exacerbated, and may continue to spread. Furthermore, due to government instability, war and genocide, lack of education, infrastructure, and cultural beliefs fostering mistrust in vaccines, healthcare workers and a general lack of preparedness, treatment, community engagement and trust building will be essential to effective care provision (New England Journal of Medicine, August 25, 2018).

 

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, comprised of leading human and animal virologists from 29 countries. The GVN’s mission is to combat current and emerging pandemic viral threats through international collaborative research, training the next generation of medical virologists, and advocacy. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Shines Light on Global Challenges

Last Week the WHO Declared the Epidemic a Public-Health Emergency of International Concern

Baltimore, MD, USA, July 24, 2019: Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) a public-health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), signaling a risk to multiple countries that requires a coordinated international response. Worse than the previous nine Ebola outbreaks in the DRC combined, more than 2,500 people are listed as confirmed or probable cases and at least 1,700 have died. This is only the fifth PHEIC declared following similar alarms for the H1N1 influenza pandemic (2009), a major outbreak of wild polio (2014), the West African Ebola epidemic (2013-16) and the Zika epidemic (2015-16). Each of these public health emergencies have highlighted weaknesses in our response systems, exposing the urgent need for improved infrastructure, scientific knowledge, and diagnostic technologies in areas most at risk.

“The Global Virus Network and all the scientists collaborating with the network will strongly support efforts of WHO following up on the PHEIC declaration for the current Kivu Ebola epidemic” said Prof. Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, president of the Global Virus Network (GVN), professor at the University of South Florida and executive director of the Romark Company Institute for Medical Research.

The declaration of the PHEIC was triggered when a case of Ebola was diagnosed in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, with greater than 1 million people that directly borders Rwanda and has an international airport. Previously, two children and their grandmother carried the virus into Uganda, while all three died. Uganda, where no more Ebola cases have occurred, is the site of a GVN center and has a strong track record of controlling Ebola.

Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, PhD, MB ChB, director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), director, Center of Excellence, GVN and director of the Medical Research Council/ Uganda Virus Research Institute and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Uganda Research Unit said, “Uganda has a strong surveillance network and fortunately has been able to limit this Ebola outbreak as well as outbreaks over the past decade to only a few cases.”

The current outbreak was declared in August 2018, but the Ebola virus was likely already spreading in eastern DRC for many months. Bringing the outbreak under control has proven to be challenging. While more than 70 million people are controlled and more than 160,000 vaccines have been administered, the outbreak continues The eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri border Rwanda and Uganda, and are active conflict zones where there have been over 70 attacks on Ebola clinics or health workers since January.  There are many new confirmed cases that are unable to be traced to an existing Ebola contact. Therefore, it is likely that there are many deaths that have occurred that have gone unrecorded.

Despite the security challenges of the current epidemic, research on four therapies for Ebola is ongoing. This proves that research on cures and prevention of Ebola can, and should, occur under even the most dire outbreak conditions.

“The 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak drove an impressive advancement of knowledge,” said Prof. Giuseppe Ippolito, MD, MSc (HCMO), FRCPE, the scientific director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) “Lazzaro Spallanzani” in Rome, director, Center of Excellence, Global Virus Network and director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for clinical care, diagnosis, response and training on Highly Infectious Diseases at INMI. “Preparedness and response must now be driven by scientific results and available evidence, involving more international and national public health institutions to alleviate the burden for humanitarian NGOs that so far stand alone. Investing in the training of a new generation of experts in virology and clinical epidemiology is critical to addressing emerging infections.”

The current Ebola outbreak in Congo has not yet achieved the magnitude of the West African epidemic. The West African Ebola epidemic, which infected at least 28,000 people and killed over 11,000, is again in the news this week with the release of a new book, Crisis in the Red Zone, a sequel to The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. The Hot Zone, published twenty-five years ago, documented events in which monkeys at a primate holding facility in Reston Virginia, only 20 miles from the center of Washington DC, developed a fatal illness. As the disease caused by Reston virus, a close relative of the Ebola virus, spread through the monkeys at the facility, the help of scientists at the nearby United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick Maryland was enlisted.

This time Preston puts much more focus on African healthcare workers and scientists. Crisis in the Red Zone describes the early events of the Ebola outbreak as the virus spread from Guinea to the Kenema Government Hospital where Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan and his team attempted to manage the influx of Ebola cases. Doctors and nurses such as Dr. Khan, head nurse and midwife Mbalu Fonnie, and nurses Alex Moigboi, Alice Kovoma and Nancy Yoko, who paid the ultimate price, are fittingly portrayed as heroes. Kenema Government Hospital has been closely affiliated with the Tulane University GVN Center of Excellence for nearly 15 years, working on Lassa fever, a disease that has many similarities to Ebola.

Prof. Robert F. Garry, Jr., PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, Tulane University and director, Center of Excellence, GVN., commented that, “Crisis in the Red Zone provides a detailed accounting of the challenges my Sierra Leonean colleagues faced in the early days of the West African Ebola outbreak, while they awaited needed assistance from the international community. Unfortunately, some believed that the outbreak in Sierra Leone would burn out in a few weeks delaying a full scale intervention by the United States, WHO and others. New approaches to outbreak responses based on local preparedness, like those lead by GVN, are urgently needed.”

The current Ebola outbreak in the eastern DRC and the West African Ebola outbreak are but two examples of inadequate approaches to disease outbreaks that rely on an influx of foreign responders and have repeatedly been delayed and under-resourced. GVN is founded on the principle that preparedness for emerging viral diseases will necessitate deeply rooted collaborative research between local and global partners, and transformation of diagnostic tools and regional surveillance networks.

“The world is still vulnerable and under-prepared,” said Prof. Robert C. Gallo, MD, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, co-founder and director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-founder and international scientific advisor, Global Virus Network. “There is an urgent, unmet need for new proactive measures that are locally established, community-based and rooted in symmetrical partnerships to address the challenges that viruses, including those that are as yet unknown, pose to global health and security.”

GVN represents 48 Centers of Excellence and 7 affiliates in 29 countries and comprises foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans. It is a global authority and resource for the identification and investigation, interpretation and explanation, control and suppression, of viral diseases posing threats to mankind. It enhances the international capacity for reactive, proactive and interactive activities that address mankind-threatening viruses and addresses a global need for coordinated virology training through scholarly exchange programs for recruiting and training young scientists in medical virology. The GVN also serves as a resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice about viral disease threats, prevention or response strategies, and GVN advocates for research and training on virus infections and their many disease manifestations.

 

Read More: Ebola Virus Q&A

 

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 48 Centers of Excellence and seven Affiliates in 29 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Media Contact:

Nora Samaranayake, GVN

410-706-8614

nsamaranayake@gvn.org

The Global Virus Network (GVN) Announces The Addition Of Three New Centers Of Excellence Joining Organization

University of Wisconsin-Madison Global Health Institute, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Vaccine Research and Review and the Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation Join Renowned Global Virus Network to Combat Viral Diseases

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, June 4, 2019: The Global Virus Network (GVN), representing 48 Centers of Excellence and 7 Affiliates in 29 countries comprising foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans, announced today the addition of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) Global Health Institute, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Vaccine Research and Review (FDA-OVRR) and the Russian Federation’s Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza (the Institute) as its newest Centers of Excellence.  The announcement was made by Robert Gallo, MD, GVN co-founder and international scientific advisor and Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, GVN president.

“The addition of these three Centers deepen our viral expertise in basic science, zoonotic and vaccine and drug therapy expertise, among other advantages,” said Dr. Gallo, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and Director of the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence. “UW-Madison is an impressive institution with a number of top virologists who will contribute to the GVN’s overall research and translational programs and global reach.  The FDA-OVRR will enhance the GVN’s contributions in the development of viral vaccines and drug therapeutics, while the Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza will contribute to our current influenza studies and other acute respiratory viral infection research.”

“The addition of two superb U.S. institutions and an accomplished Russian institution is a tribute to our commitment to advance science regardless of governments politics,” said Dr. Bréchot, professor at the University of South Florida and executive director of the Romark Company Institute for Medical Research. “With these new additions, the GVN will strengthen its biosecurity initiatives including our recently established Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce, among other important projects.”

The UW-Madison Global Health Institute Center of Excellence (UW-Madison) will be led by Tony Goldberg, PhD, DVM, MS, professor, department of pathobiological sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, associate director for research, Global Health Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, MS, PhD, professor, department of pathobiological sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, director, Influenza Research Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Virology research at UW-Madison includes studies of agents infecting humans, animals and plants, including highly pathogenic viruses (e.g. the ebolaviruses) and viruses with pandemic potential (e.g. influenza virus, Dengue virus, Zika virus). Virology research at UW-Madison is currently and historically strong with respect to viruses that cause human cancer and the biochemistry of host-virus interaction.

The new Centers’ activities range from basic research to the development of vaccines and therapeutics to public health and policy. UW-Madison has specific strengths in emerging viral pathogens and zoonoses, including rapid detection and characterization of novel viral agents, the development of animal models (especially primates) and the development of countermeasures such as vaccines and therapeutics.  The Center will work close with GVN Center of Excellence colleagues at the Colombia-Wisconsin One-Health Consortium (CWOHC), led by Jorge Osorio, DVM, PhD, professor, department of pathobiological sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“With our new GVN membership, and in partnership with Dr. Osorio, we will expand the range of global training opportunities for our graduate students as well as provide the GVN with expertise in diverse viral systems of global importance and highly specialized methodologies,” said Drs. Goldberg and Kawaoka.  “We especially look forward to strengthening our international training opportunities via the GVN and forging new scientific collaborations with members of the GVN.”

The FDA Office of Vaccines Research and Review (OVRR) GVN Center of Excellence is led by Konstantin Chumakov, PhD, associate director, OVRR, and is one of the three product offices, in addition to the Office of Blood Research and Review and the Office of Tissue and Advanced Therapies that regulates gene and cellular therapies. OVRR is in the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), the world’s oldest institution responsible for regulation of biologically-derived medical products. CBER conducts regulatory research to better understand basic and translational aspects of regulated products and to inform development, evaluation and manufacture of various biologicals. The area of regulatory and research purview of OVRR includes vaccines against viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases, allergenic products for both diagnostic and therapeutic use, as well as live bio-therapeutic products, such as probiotics, fecal microbiota transplantation and phage therapy. The Office research portfolio includes 35 independent research programs covering a wide range of viral and bacterial pathogens.

“We are pleased to join the GVN in an official capacity, as we have participated in GVN activities since its inception,” said Dr. Chumakov.  “We will continue working with the GVN to facilitate the sharing of information to develop and evaluate effective vaccines.  We also look forward to participating in and supporting the training of the world’s next generation of virologists.”

The Smorodintsev Research Institute of Influenza Center of Excellence, led by Andrey Vasin, PhD its Director, Head of the Molecular Biology of Viruses Department, is a leading institute in the field of virology in Russia.  The Institute’s main activities are tightly interconnected with influenza and other respiratory viruses. The Institute is also an active part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) and is a WHO-recognized National Influenza Centre since 1971. Other activities include vaccine research and development projects, including the possibility to conduct pre-clinical and clinical trials (all phases), antiviral research and system biology approaches for investigation of host-pathogen interactions.

“The institute is already engaged in broad international collaborative research in the field of molecular virology, genetic engineering, improving the quality of diagnostic products, designing and producing new influenza vaccines and antiviral drugs,” said Dr. Vasin.  “The GVN provides a unique opportunity to collaborate in the areas of vaccine research and development against respiratory pathogens, including joint grant applications and experience exchange. We look forward to hosting clinical trials of vaccines and novel drugs according to International standards, in addition to training exchange programs for our young scientists.”

The GVN will co-host its 11th International Meeting with the Spanish Society of Virology in Barcelona, Spain from June 9-12, 2019. Top virologists from around the world will discuss topics, including immunology and vaccines, antiviral drug therapy, virus-host interaction, diagnostic virology and epidemiology, morphogenesis and structural biology, emerging and re-emerging viruses, viruses as biotechnological tools and trending topics in virology.

 

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 48 Centers of Excellence and seven Affiliates in 29 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

“THE HOT ZONE” SCENARIO – WILL IT HAPPEN AGAIN?

The Global Virus Network (GVN) Confirms That Deadly Hemorrhagic Viruses Are a Real & Imminent Threat

Baltimore, MD, May 28, 2019: The Hot Zone, which premiered on Monday, May 27, 2019, is a three night limited series on National Geographic, based on Richard Preston’s best-selling book that depicts the true story of deadly, airborne hemorrhagic fever viruses, Ebola and Marburg.  According to the Global Virus Network (GVN), a worldwide coalition of preeminent virologists engaged in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, existing and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, what took place in 1989 foretells of what could well occur both in the present and in the foreseeable future.

Said  internationally renowned virus hunter, Robert C. Gallo, MD, most widely known for discovering the first human retrovirus and for co-discovering HIV as the cause of AIDS, “What people the world over should be asking is not whether an outbreak of a lethal  virus has the potential to become a global pandemic, as there are a myriad and multitude of viral threats that are an unequivocally real and indisputably present danger to mankind, but whether the world’s doctors and scientists are capable, let alone prepared, to handle a devastating viral outbreak.”

In 2011, Dr. Gallo co-founded the Global Virus Network (GVN) with William Hall, BSc, PhD, MD, DTMH,  professor of microbiology at University College Dublin in Ireland and the late Reinhard Kurth, MD, former chairman of the Ernst Schering Foundation Council and former president of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, to establish and maintain global collaborations between the world’s top virologists and to serve as a global authority and resource for the identification, investigation, containment and treatment of viral diseases that pose threats to mankind.  While there are a number of global health organizations which are responsible for virus research and surveillance, prior to the advent of the GVN, there is no integrated global network that could pool the knowledge, expertise and resources of the world’s leading translational and basic science virologists to investigate, interpret, explain and disseminate information about viral diseases that pose threats to mankind. In addition, the GVN works very closely with and collaborates with some of the world’s largest, most recognized health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more.

In relation to hemorrhagic viruses, scientists and the GVN are predicting the following:

  • The cost to the global economy is estimated to be in excess of $200 billion annually, an increase of almost $50 billion since 2001.
  • According to the GVN, Dengue fever, which heretofore has been relatively common only in tropical countries, is now emerging in the U.S. due to climate change and the spread of mosquito habitats. Polio and measles, viruses that were once nearly eliminated by vaccines, are now re-emerging because government vaccination programs have lapsed in the belief that these viruses have been eradicated.
  • Due to the increasing proximity between animals and man from urban development and deforestation, there is a growing number of viruses which originate in animals and jump to humans. The GVN investigates the emergence of a number of these viruses, such as Ebola, Lassa and SARS, which are highly contagious and extremely deadly.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the continuing AIDS crisis, which began in the 1980s, has led to 35 million deaths to-date, and worldwide flu pandemics have killed millions. Contributing to these viruses becoming global pandemics was the lack of an integrated global approach and response by the medical and scientific communities.  Millions died and millions more were infected over a period of years because governments and health authorities throughout the world were unprepared and unable to join forces in order to harness the collective knowledge, expertise, resources and technologies necessary to effectively battle a new or existing viral pandemic.

Furthermore, the GVN launched the Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce (A&P Taskforce) earlier this year, led by Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, president of the GVN, and co-chaired by Elodie Ghedin, PhD, director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, and professor of biology and global public health at New York University, and Giuseppe Ippolito, MD, the scientific director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) “Lazzaro Spallanzani” in Rome and director of the WHO Collaborating Center. The A&P Taskforce is comprised of more than a dozen experts from GVN Centers of Excellence and Affiliates and its mission is to develop and employ innovative and pioneering approaches to identify and elucidate the impact and magnitude of future viral epidemics by coalescing mathematic modelling with epidemiology, genomics, medicine and public health.

“The identification of emerging, re-emerging and unknown infectious diseases and surveillance of viral pathogens humans and wildlife is critical for early prediction of future disease outbreaks and epidemics.  This must be based on science and the best of research activities on these topics,” said Dr. Bréchot, who is also former president of the Institut Pasteur. “Analyzing these viral pathogens as well as the host response to these pathogens will enable us to build models for rapid diagnostics and thus early identification as well as prompt clinical management of suspected cases.”

When a situation like ‘The Hot Zone’ arises again, the virologists of GVN will help mitigate the risk of a viral epidemic by bringing together the knowledge, expertise and resources of the world’s leading medical virologists. “Without an integrated and coalesced approach by the medical virology community and scientists throughout the world, nothing can be expediently and effectively accomplished.  You do not have an explanation of disease causation, drug therapy, a cure or a vaccine.  The GVN is integral to our world’s security against existing and new viral threats,” said Dr. Gallo, who  is international scientific advisor of the GVN and The Homer & Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and co-founder and director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In a recent article published in Science by James LeDuc, PhD, director of the Galveston National Laboratory, professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and head of the GVN’s A&P Taskforce biodefense and biosecurity initiative, titled, “Network for Safe and Secure Labs” (LeDuc, 2018), he states, “dangerous diseases exist in many corners of the world and that they can cause substantial human suffering and financial devastation locally and internationally. In response, institutions and nations are constructing maximum biocontainment laboratories (MCLs) to address these threats. Not every country requires an MCL, but every country can benefit from the collaborative operation of these labs. We encourage existing MCLs to convene a forum that brings together all stakeholders to conceive of an MCL network so that these critical labs can tackle urgent global health needs safely, securely, and productively.”

The GVN is grateful and appreciative that other big companies and organizations are joining the initiative to support nonprofit organizations and universities around the world with the mission of fighting infectious diseases – specifically Facebook. The company recently announced its new initiative focused on using its data and technology to map the spread of diseases through the introduction of three new maps, including population density with demographic estimates, movement maps and network coverage maps. Facebook would like to provide timely and relevant information to health organizations in order to help them address epidemics.

 

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, existing and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 45 Centers of Excellence and seven Affiliates in 29 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

The Global Virus Network (GVN) Launches Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce Following 10th International Meeting in Annecy, France

The GVN Undertakes Worldwide Initiative to Support Public Health Authorities 

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, March 27, 2019: The Global Virus Network (GVN), a worldwide coalition of preeminent virologists engaged in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, has launched the Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce (A&P Taskforce).  The A&P Taskforce is led by Dr. Christian Bréchot, President of the GVN, and Co-Chaired by Elodie Ghedin, PhD, Director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, and Professor of Biology and Global Public Health at New York University, and Giuseppe Ippolito, MD, the Scientific Director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) “Lazzaro Spallanzani” in Rome and Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for clinical care, diagnosis, response and training on Highly Infectious Diseases at INMI.

The Taskforce is comprised of more than a dozen experts from GVN Centers of Excellence and Affiliates and its mission is to develop and employ innovative and pioneering approaches to identify and elucidate the impact and magnitude of future viral epidemics by coalescing mathematic modelling with epidemiology, genomics, medicine and public health.  The Taskforce will work closely with public health authorities, existing networks and institutions as well as disseminate vital clinical and scientific information on best practices for the diagnosis and management virus related pathogens.

Said Dr. Bréchot, “The identification of emerging, re-emerging and unknown infectious diseases and surveillance of viral pathogens humans and wildlife is critical for early prediction of future disease outbreaks and epidemics.  This must be based on science and the best of research activities on these topics. Analyzing these viral pathogens as well as the host response to these pathogens will enable us to build models for rapid diagnostics and thus early identification as well as prompt clinical management of suspected cases. The Taskforce will also facilitate and expedite the development of critical epidemiological protocols and guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of emerging, re-emerging and unknown viruses, as well as training healthcare professionals in all geographical areas to deal with infectious diseases caused by such viruses; being science-driven it will work in close interaction with the other organizations at stake on this major issue”.

A recent article published by the BBC titled, “The Mystery Viruses Far Worse Than the Flu” (Gorvett, 2018), emphasized the critical and timely need to anticipate and prepare for the next human pandemic; and this is one of the primary mandates for the formation and implementation of the Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce. In addition, the A&P Taskforce will develop standardized practices and protocols for global biodefense and biosecurity.  Of all the challenges that pose a clear and present threat to public health, biosecurity poses one of the greatest global risks.  The GVN is the only single institution in the world that has specialist expertise in all emerging, re-emerging and unknown viruses, and the GVN is now a member of the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.  Furthermore, following a recent meeting between Dr. Bréchot and representatives from the WHO in Geneva, the GVN will closely interact with the WHO on the development, standardization and implementation of biosecurity standards and practices. 

The Taskforce’s biodefense and biosecurity initiative will be led by James LeDuc, PhD, the director of the Galveston National Laboratory and a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.  Said Dr. LeDuc in his recent article, “Network for Safe and Secure Labs” (LeDuc, 2018), published in Science, “dangerous diseases exist in many corners of the world and that they can cause substantial human suffering and financial devastation locally and internationally. In response, institutions and nations are constructing maximum biocontainment laboratories (MCLs) to address these threats. MCLs operate at the highest level of biological containment to diagnose, perform research on and validate cures for life-threatening diseases like Ebola.  The global proliferation of these facilities raises questions about how to ensure safe and secure operations while enhancing their contributions to science and global health. One solution is to establish an MCL network that enables the sharing of best practices, collaboration, transparency and exchange of specimens and technology.” The A&P Taskforce, as well as eight new Virus Watch Groups, were adopted by the Leadership Committee of the GVN at the organization’s tenth international meeting in Annecy, France in the Fall of last year.  The objective of the Virus Watch Groups is to establish regular communication and collaboration between the GVN’s experts, further highlighting the GVN as the go-to organization for virus science expertise in the event of an emerging epidemic.  The Virus Watch Groups will enable rapid responses to threats in the following categories: Arboviruses; Gastrointestinal; Hemorrhagic Fever; Herpes; Oncogenic; Respiratory; Retroviruses; and Zoonotic. During the course of the meeting, which was hosted by the Mérieux Foundation and University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, attendees discussed the challenges posed by emerging and reemerging viruses, in the context of political instability and burgeoning refugees, deforestation and urban expansion, inadequate and incomplete vaccination and the lack of consistent and standardized biosafety measures, among other critical factors.

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 45 Centers of Excellence and seven Affiliates in 29 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Global Virus Network Center Of Excellence Researchers Discover That A Bacterial Protein Promotes Cancer

Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Research Suggests that Bacterial Infections May Contribute Far More to Cancers Than Previously Thought

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, December 4, 2018: The Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a Global Virus Network Center of Excellence, announced today the discovery that DnaK, a protein of the bacterium mycoplasma, interferes with the mycoplasma-infected cell’s ability to respond to and repair DNA damage, a known origin of cancer.

Little or no mycoplasma DnaK DNA sequences were found associated with the tumor, which was fully developed, suggesting a hit-and-run or hide mechanism of transformation, indicating that the damage is done early but the protein may not be needed once the cancer cells are formed.

The study was published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and suggests that bacterial infections may contribute to far more cancers than previously thought. The announcement was made by Robert Gallo, MD, The Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor, Global Virus Network and Davide Zella, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine. Drs. Gallo and Zella collaborated with Hervé Tettelin, PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“Currently, approximately 20% of cancers are thought to be caused by infection, most are known to be due to viruses,” said Dr. Gallo. “Mycoplasmas are a family of bacteria that are associated with cancers, especially in people with HIV. Our work provides an explanation for how a bacterial infection can trigger a series of events that lead to cancer. Of particular importance, the infection did not need to persist and the protein did not need to be continuously present in all cancer cells. The study also provides a mechanism for how some bacterial infections can interfere with specific cancer drugs.”

Researchers utilized immune-compromised mice as a model for analyzing the effect of mycoplasma infection on the development of lymphoma. They compared how quickly non- infected immune-compromised mice developed lymphoma compared to mycoplasma-infected immune-compromised mice. The mice were infected with a strain of mycoplasma from an HIV patient. The researchers found that mycoplasma infection caused the mice to develop lymphoma earlier in life than noninfected immune-compromised mice and that some, but not all, of the cancer cells had bacterial DNA. Finding only a small amount of bacterial DNA in the cancer cells suggested that the infection did not have to persist to trigger cancer.

“We focused on a protein called DnaK, which is part of a family of proteins that function as a ‘chaperone’ for other proteins protecting them from damage or helping them to fold,” said Dr. Zella. “However, in this case, DnaK reduces the activity of important cellular proteins involved in DNA repair and anti-cancer-activities, such as p53. Thus, cells infected with mycoplasma would not be able to properly repair damaged DNA, thus, potentially increasing the risk for cancer development.”

The scientists noted that the bacteria can release DnaK and the DnaK enters nearby uninfected cells. The study also demonstrates that by reducing p53, DnaK can also reduce the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs. Thus, mycoplasma infection could not only trigger events leading to the accumulation of DNA damage and oncogenesis in infected cells, but also trigger cancer-causing events in nearby uninfected cells that took up DnaK released from infected neighboring cells.

“We analyzed the amino acid sequences of DnaK from many bacteria and found that the DnaK proteins from bacteria associated with cancer grouped together were different DnaK sequences from bacteria that are not associated with cancer,” said Dr. Tettelin. “This raises the possibility that other bacteria have the same cancer-promoting ability.”

According to Dr. Gallo, “This hit-and-run, or hide, mechanism mediated by a protein common to many cancer-associated bacteria changes how we need to think about infection and at least some cancers. Furthermore, this provides a basis for understanding how infection can influence the effectiveness of some cancer treatments.”

“This is fascinating science with important implications,” said UMSOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also the Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “We are pleased to see a cross-collaboration between two disciplines here at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Our Institute of Human Virology’s basic science laboratory research was aided by the School’s Institute of Genome Sciences’ sequencing expertise, bringing the research to full fruition.”

This research was partially funded by the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund (CRF) Program. Morgan State University also participated in this study.

About the Institute of Human Virology

Formed in 1996 as a partnership between the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the University System of Maryland and the University of Maryland Medical System, IHV is an institute of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is home to some of the most globally-recognized and world-renowned experts in all of virology. The IHV combines the disciplines of basic research, epidemiology and clinical research in a concerted effort to speed the discovery of diagnostics and therapeutics for a wide variety of chronic and deadly viral and immune disorders – most notably, HIV the virus that causes AIDS. For more information, www.ihv.org and follow us on Twitter @IHVmaryland.

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, exiting and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 45 Centers of Excellence and 7 Affiliates in 29 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

Global Virus Network (GVN) Centers of Excellence Contribute Expertise to Nipah Virus Outbreak in Kerala, India

In the wake of the outbreak, the Government of Kerala is fast-tracking the launch of the Institute of Advanced Virology, which will house a unit of the GVN

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, June 5, 2018: Several of the Global Virus Network’s (GVN) Centers of Excellence have been researching Nipah virus (NiV) and are currently contributing expertise to the outbreak in the Indian state of Kerala.  India’s latest deadly NiV outbreak began in early May.  The GVN represents 41 Centers of Excellence and 7 affiliates in 26 countries and comprises foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans.

“GVN members are providing scientific, clinical and epidemiological expertise in addition to reagents to laboratories in the field,” said Prof. Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN.  “Indian government agencies responding to the NiV outbreak have done a fantastic job implementing quarantine procedures and other effective forms of infection control.”

According to India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, as of June 2, 2018, there are 19 reported patient cases, 18 of which were confirmed in the laboratory, and 17 of which are deceased. Clinical presentation of NiV ranges from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection and fatal encephalitis.  Death rates, as in this outbreak and the 2015 outbreak in the Philippines, can exceed 80%.

“There is a great need to advance the science in the study of Nipah virus,” said Robert C. Gallo, MD, who is Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor of the GVN and The Homer & Martha Gudeslky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.  “Currently, there is no human or animal treatment or vaccine.  GVN members look forward to working with organizations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to quickly advance effective therapeutics and vaccine candidates.”

“A targeted recombinant human monoclonal antibody therapy, which is in the process of being brought to Kerala, has proven to be effective in animal models and has passed a Phase I clinical trial,” said Benhur Lee, MD, Professor, Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a Global Virus Network (GVN) Center of Excellence.  “Further, there are several forms of recombinant vaccines proven to be effective in animal models.  We, and other members of the GVN, look forward to working with local and international organizations to advance the science.”

NiV was first detected during a major infectious disease outbreak in Malaysia in 1998-9 and named after the Sungai Nipah village on the banks of the Nipah River in Malaysia. Studies from past human infection outbreaks in Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines, show that the virus can be transmitted to humans by three different routes: 1) from bats to humans who are in contact with virus-contaminated material (e.g., date palm sap); 2) from intermediate hosts such as pigs and horses; and, 3) from infected humans.

“We need to better understand what is causing Nipah virus spillover from animals and the exact transmission route for the index of human cases so that we can prevent future outbreaks,” said Linfa Wang, PhD, Professor & Director, Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, a Center of Excellence applicant of the GVN.  “There are potential unknown intermediate and amplifying hosts in different ecological, social, cultural and farming settings that we need to identify.  We can also help develop rapid diagnostic tests for developing nations and provide education guidelines and technical guidance.”

Since the outbreak, the Government of Kerala announced that it will fast-track the founding of Kerala’s Institute of Advanced Virology (IAV) at the Life Sciences Park at Thonnakkal. IAV, which aims to open in December, will house a unit of the GVN.  IAV will comprise eight laboratories for advanced research in clinical virology, viral diagnostics, viral vaccines, anti-viral drug research, viral applications, viral epidemiology, vector dynamics, virus genomics, bioinformatics and general virology.

“We are pleased to be working with the government of Kerala in founding the IAV,” said MV Pillai, MD, Clinical Professor of Oncology, Thomas Jefferson University and a Senior Advisor to the GVN.  “Through IAV, the GVN will bring world-class expertise to the state of Kerala, so that Kerala can begin to address its own epidemics, such as this Nipah virus outbreak, and start to contribute to virology at an international level.”

The GVN is a global authority and resource for the identification and investigation, interpretation and explanation, control and suppression, of viral diseases posing threats to mankind.  It enhances the international capacity for reactive, proactive and interactive activities that address mankind-threatening viruses and addresses a global need for coordinated virology training through scholarly exchange programs for recruiting and training young scientists in medical virology.  The GVN also serves as a resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice about viral disease threats, prevention or response strategies, and GVN advocates for research and training on virus infections and their many disease manifestations.

The GVN, in partnership with the Fondation Mérieux (FM) and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo), will convene the 10th International Global Virus Network Meeting on Eradication and Control of (Re-)Emerging Viruses in Annecy, France November 28-30. More information can be found at www.gvn.org.

Global Virus Network Responds to Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Global Virus Network Responds to Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Baltimore, Maryland, USA, May 31, 2018: The Global Virus Network (GVN) is mobilizing a coordinated effort to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through its Centers of Excellence.  The GVN represents 41 Centers of Excellence and 7 affiliates in 26 countries and comprises foremost experts in every class of virus causing disease in humans.

“The GVN Centers of Excellence are directly contributing to the fight against Ebola, working in different research areas that are of crucial importance to confronting such epidemics,” said Prof. Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, President of the GVN.  “Several of GVN’s Centers are also sending scientists to the DRC.  Moreover, the GVN is currently serving as a hub to aggregate and disseminate information on each Center’s individual responses to the outbreak to better coalesce and inform a collective approach. In tandem with organizations such as the WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), and other international institutions, the GVN will coordinate research and response efforts and serve as a catalyst for shared information to focus efforts on the areas in greatest need.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of May 29, 2018, there are 36 confirmed cases, 13 probable cases, and, 4 suspect cases, totaling 53 cases including 25 deaths. Ebola virus was discovered in 1976 by the Ebola River in the DRC (formerly known as Zaire).  It is not definitively known where Ebola originates, however, it is believed that bats are the main reservoir for the virus.

Four species of ebolaviruses cause disease in humans and the one causing the outbreak in the DRC is Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus).  Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) spreads to people through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is infected with the virus and presenting disease, objects contaminated with the virus, as well as dead bodies from EVD. The virus can also spread to people through direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected fruit bats or primates.

“When my colleagues and I co-founded the GVN in 2011, we made a commitment to share data so that science could be fast-tracked in situations such as the latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC,” said Dr. Gallo, who is Co-Founder and International Scientific Advisor of the GVN and The Homer & Martha Gudeslky Distinguished Professor in Medicine, Co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a GVN Center of Excellence.  “Without an organized network of the world’s leading virologists supporting implementation organizations such as GOARN, the science of the epidemic will progress slowly.  We have an experimental vaccine that we believe may be effective, but more research is needed.”

GVN Center of Excellence, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), is heavily involved in Ebola virus research and the deployment of equipment and supplies to the DRC.  Said Michael Oldstone, MD, Professor, Department of Immunology and Microbiology at TSRI and Co-Director of the GVN Center of Excellence, “Our group has been studying Ebola in Sierra Leone for more than four years. We are focused on detailing the innate and adoptive immune response in those dying and those that survive, studying host genetics and viral genetics, and analyzing biomarkers for, and molecular mechanism of, the enhanced vascular permeability, or the so-called hemorrhagic component.”

Erica Ollmann Saphire, PhD, Professor, Department of Immunology and Microbiology at TSRI and Co-Director of the GVN Center of Excellence, who is researching the proteins of the Ebola virus, said her team has mobilized loads of donated personal protective equipment and supplies to the DRC. The tools were already delivered to Kinshasa to support epidemiology, mapping, and immune studies. Dr. Saphire will also be studying the immune responses in survivors and vaccines. She founded and directs a global effort to understand and develop antibody therapeutics against these viruses, and has recently engineered improved antibodies that are being evaluated for treatment of disease.

Kristian G. Andersen, PhD, Assistant Professor, Director of Infectious Disease Genomics, STSI, Department of Immunology and Microbiology also at TSRI, and whose lab in the past used virus sequencing to understand and track past outbreaks such as Ebola, Lassa, and Zika, said, “The current outbreak is confusing.  The most critical questions at this point relate to understanding (1) the scale of the outbreak, (2) when it started, and, (3) how it is spreading.  Is it human-to-human infection or repeated animal to human infection?  We can address all those questions by sequencing the virus from a subset of the cases, and we are on standby to assist.”

At Emory University, Raymond Schinazi, PhD, DSc, the Frances Winship Walters Professor of Pediatrics, Director of the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology and Co-Director of the GVN Center of Excellence, is working with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on repurposed drug therapy for Ebola.  “Working with colleagues at the CDC, we recently discovered some really interesting, new, safe and potent repurposed drugs that are approved for human use for other indications that are highly effective against Ebola virus in culture,” said Dr. Schinazi.

At the Rega Institute for Medical Research at the University of Leuven, Johan Neyts, PhD, Professor of Virology and Director of the GVN Center of Excellence, is developing a novel technology that allows for the rapid production of inexpensive vaccines against the yellow fever virus.  This vaccine no longer needs to be kept cold for storage and transport. Dr. Neyts said, “The technology allows us to easily design vaccines that protect not just against yellow fever but also a second pathogen.  Our team is currently working towards the construction of a dual yellow fever/Ebola vaccine using this technology.  The fact that such a vaccine would, in contrast to current Ebola virus vaccine (candidates), no longer need a cold-chain, would be an important asset.”

GVN Centers of Excellence are working closely with GOARN on a variety of issues including diagnostic, epidemiological studies and clinical management in conjunction with other Centers of Excellence such as the Robert Koch Institute in Germany, University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston National Laboratory in the USA, Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, the Institute for Virology at the University of Marburg in Germany, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, several French Pasteur Institutes of the International Network of the Institut Pasteur, and the Fondation Mérieux in France.

The GVN is a global authority and resource for the identification and investigation, interpretation and explanation, control and suppression, of viral diseases posing threats to mankind.  It enhances the international capacity for reactive, proactive and interactive activities that address mankind-threatening viruses and addresses a global need for coordinated virology training through scholarly exchange programs for recruiting and training young scientists in medical virology.  The GVN also serves as a resource to governments and international organizations seeking advice about viral disease threats, prevention or response strategies, and GVN advocates for research and training on virus infections and their many disease manifestations.

Update on the Nipah Virus Outbreak in Kerala, India

Update on the Nipah Virus Outbreak in Kerala, India

 May 30, 2018

 By Benhur Lee, MD, Professor, Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a Global Virus Network (GVN) Center of Excellence and Linfa Wang, PhD, Professor & Director, Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore

What is Nipah virus and why should we be concerned about the Nipah virus outbreak?

  • Nipah virus was first detected during a major infectious disease outbreak in Malaysia in 1998-9 and the virus was named after the Sungai Nipah village on the banks of Nipah River in Malaysia.
  • Nipah virus belongs to a genus of paramyxoviruses (Henipavirus), including the highly pathogenic Hendra virus found in Australia that can cause acute respiratory distress and encephalitis with mortality rates in excess of 70%.
  • Since its first detection in Malaysia, a closely related Nipah virus has emerged in Bangladesh/India region since 2001. The Nipah Bangladesh strain (Nipah virus-BD) is approximately 91% identical in genome sequence to the Nipah Malaysia strain (Nipah virus-MY).
  • In 2015, there was a Nipah virus outbreak in the Philippines which affected 17 individual with a case mortality reaching 80% for those developing neurological symptoms. Preliminary serological and molecular data indicated it was caused by the Nipah virus-MY strain or a closely related virus.
  • Pteropus bats (fruit eating bats) are likely the main animal reservoir for Nipah virus, although there is evidence suggesting that other bat species are also susceptible to Nipah virus infection in nature. Various bat species ranging from Australia to West Africa can carry viruses genetically closely related to henipaviruses.
  • Studies from the known human infection outbreaks in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines, show that the virus can be transmitted to human by three different routes: 1) from bats to humans who come in contact with virus-contaminated material (e.g., date palm sap); 2) from intermediate hosts such as pigs and horses; and 3) from infected humans.
  • There is also epidemiological evidence that companion animals (including dogs and cats) can be infected with these viruses and they can in theory transmit viruses to humans as well.

What do we know about the Kerala outbreak?

  • The current Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala was first alerted when three members of a family, two brothers (age 26 and 28) and their aunt (age 50), died on May 5th, May 18th, and May 19th, respectively, in the private Baby Memorial Hospital (Kozhikode district, Kerala). They died with signs of viral encephalitis. Laboratory testing was initially conducted at the Manipal Centre for Viral Research using blood and fluid samples from this patient. The etiologic cause of their death due to Nipah virus encephalitis was confirmed by the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
  • The father of the two siblings died on May 24 after fighting for his life for about three weeks. In total, four family members died in this “index case” cluster.
  • As the incubation period of Nipah virus infection varies from 4 to 14 days1, it was difficult to definitively determine who was the true “index case” and how was the infection acquired.
  • Although more studies are required to prove or disprove that all the human cases are related and resulted from a single spillover event, early genetic analysis seems to indicate that the outbreak was caused by a virus closely related to the Nipah virus-BD strain.
  • It is interesting to note that the distance from Kerala to the known “Nipah belt” in western/northwestern Bangladesh and the bordering areas of west Bengal is ~2,600 km (1600 miles).
  • As of this writing (Sun May 27), there are 17 confirmed cases with 14 deaths giving a presumptive mortality rate of ~80%. Dozens of samples remain to be tested.
  • At least 31 species of bats have been documented in Kerala (including 5 species of fruit bats)2 .
  • The recent report that 21 samples of bats and pigs from the affected area tested negative for Nipah Virus should be interpreted with caution with regards to expected reservoir.
  • The sample size is too small and the quality of the specimen (especially those from the dead bats in the well near the “index case” cluster) might also be an issue. Contrary to local news reports, it is impossible to rule out bats as a reservoir species based on these 21 samples.
  • As a reservoir species, bats are not supposed to be affected, much less killed by the virus.
  • The bats tested so far are insectivorous bats. A fruit bat colony 4-5 km from the site of the outbreak has yet to be tested.
  • Longitudinal studies of Hendra virus in Australia revealed that the viral load in the bat population could go through short periods of “spikes”. As the timing of the assumed initial spillover event could not be conclusively determined, it is also possible that the viral load in the bat population has dropped recently, hence leading to negative findings.
  • There is a vast literature showing that bats are the natural reservoirs for henipaviruses.

 

What is the risk of wide spread transmission?

  • From past Nipah virus outbreaks, the R0 was estimated to be ~0.43. R0 is mathematical term quantifying the average number of new infections that one infected individual can generate, in an otherwise naïve population. For an infection to spread through a population, R0 needs to >1. When R0 is <1, the infection will eventually die out.
  • Human-to-human transmission requires intimate contact with high levels of bodily secretions (respiratory secretions, saliva, urine, etc.). The risk of wide-spread transmission is therefore low. This is also reflected in estimated R0 ~0.4 for Nipah virus.
  • The current outbreak appears to be small, and the appropriate public health measures have been rapidly implemented to contain its spread. To put the current Nipah virus outbreak in context, consider the following two vignettes:
  • The 2001 outbreak in Siliguri, India, involved 66 people. The index case transmitted the virus to 11 additional patients at the hospital. These secondarily infected patients were transferred to other facilities – in two facilities, subsequent transmission involved 25 staff and 8 visitors4. This was likely before the implementation of universal precautions— personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and/or face shields.
  • 50% of Pteropus bats sampled in an outbreak area (Thakurgaon district) in Northwest Bangladesh were seropositive for Nipah virus antibodies5. Yet transmission is still very sporadic. Thus, the drivers of virus spillover remain relatively unknown (other than drinking of virus contaminated date palm sap).

What can we do to contain the outbreak?

  • Contact tracing, aggressive monitoring and quarantining of suspect cases are effective forms of infection control and containment. These have been appropriately implemented by the responsible government agencies responding to this outbreak in Kerala.
  • Educational efforts combined with preventive measures appear to be effective. Examples include:
  • The use of universal precautions and appropriate PPE (gloves, masks and/or face shield) is sufficient to limit the spread of Nipah virus to patient caretakers including family relatives and healthcare workers.
  • Funeral practices that avoid direct contact with the deceased can cut the train of transmission.
  • Avoiding direct contact with bodily fluids, especially respiratory secretions of infected individuals.
  • Counsel relatives to avoid prolonged close contact with the infected individual (e.g. sleeping beside patient, sharing of foods, etc.).
  • All the above require culturally sensitive educational campaigns targeted to the affected community.
  • There is evidence that Nipah virus RNA+ patients are more likely to contaminate towels, bedsheets, and bed rails6. A previous study also showed that Nipah virus RNA could also be detected on the surrounding walls and bedframe of a deceased Nipah virus infected patient7. Thus, infection controls should target hospital surfaces, which will reduce the risk of formite transmission.

 

What’s the latest development in diagnosis, treatment and prevention?

  • Clinical symptoms include fever and headaches, which can progress to drowsiness, disorientation, mental confusion, and finally encephalitis (brain swelling) in less than a week.
  • Molecular tests (both qPCR and next generation sequencing) are the most rapid and accurate tools available to confirm Nipah virus infection. Acute-phase serum, CSF, throat swabs, saliva, and urine can be used for these tests.

There is also an IgM ELISA test based on whole viral antigen.

  • Live virus isolation should be conducted in a high level biocontainment facility.
  • Ribovirin was used during the Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia, but its effect is non-conclusive. A targeted recombinant human monoclonal antibody therapy has proven to be effective in animal models and has passed Phase I clinical trial.  The relevant Indian government agency is in the process of acquiring this therapeutics from the Australian supplier with the help of WHO.
  • There are several forms of recombinant vaccines proven to be effective in animal models. These include a recombinant G-protein based vaccine and viral vector-delivered vaccines. The recombinant G-protein vaccine has been licensed for use in horses. With the founding from the Coalition for Pandemics Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), there is an effort to fast track the development of a Nipah virus vaccine for human use.

What is GVN doing for Nipah virus?

  • In the past, various GVN members have played a key role in laying the ground work for a good understanding of virology, epidemiology and pathogenesis of Nipah virus.
  • GVN member teams are currently helping the Kerala outbreak investigation by providing advices, reagents (when needed), and are ready to deploy field and laboratory experts should the need arise.
  • In future, GVN will focus on the following:
    • Better understanding the drivers of spillover events.
    • Identifying and understanding the ecology of its reservoir, so as to guide preventive measures.
    • Identifying potential unknown intermediate/amplifying hosts in different ecological, social, cultural and farming settings.
    • Developing a rapid point-of-care test(s) for deployment in developing nations.
    • Conducting education that is consistent with conservation biology regarding the importance of bats for a healthy ecosystem.
    • Stockpiling therapeutics and vaccines which are not economically viable for private companies – CEPI model sets the stage for future proactive response to outbreaks of highly pathogenic emerging viruses.

References

1          Wong, K. T. & Tan, C. T. Clinical and pathological manifestations of human henipavirus infection. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol 359, 95-104, doi:10.1007/82_2012_205 (2012).

2          Srinivasulu, B. & Srinivasulu, C. A first record of three hitherto unreported species of bats from Kerala, India with a note on Myotis peytoni (Mammalia: Chiroptera: Vesperttillionidae). J Threatened Taxa 9, 10216-11022 (2017).

3          Luby, S. P. The pandemic potential of Nipah virus. Antiviral Res 100, 38-43, doi:10.1016/j.antiviral.2013.07.011 (2013).

4          Chadha, M. S. et al. Nipah virus-associated encephalitis outbreak, Siliguri, India. Emerg Infect Dis 12, 235-240, doi:10.3201/eid1202.051247 (2006).

5          Homaira, N. et al. Nipah virus outbreak with person-to-person transmission in a district of Bangladesh, 2007. Epidemiol Infect 138, 1630-1636, doi:10.1017/S0950268810000695 (2010).

6          Hassan, M. Z. et al. Nipah Virus Contamination of Hospital Surfaces during Outbreaks, Bangladesh, 2013-2014. Emerg Infect Dis 24, 15-21, doi:10.3201/eid2401.161758 (2018).

7          Gurley, E. S. et al. Person-to-person transmission of Nipah virus in a Bangladeshi community. Emerg Infect Dis 13, 1031-1037, doi:10.3201/eid1307.061128 (2007).