Confronting Ebola at its Origins: GVN Member, The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Deploys their Mobile Diagnostic Laboratory to Sierra Leone

The 2014/15 outbreak of Ebola virus disease is the largest ever reported of this deadly, highly infectious, hemorrhagic disease since its initial discovery in humans in 1976. The current outbreak was first recognized in March, 2014 in Guinea and has since crossed international boundaries into Sierra Leone and Liberia where case numbers have now surpassed those recorded in the country of origin. Due to international travel of infected individuals, both medical professionals and non-professionals, the virus has also been introduced and caused smaller outbreaks in Mali, Nigeria, Spain and the United States. A worldwide response was launched. Like the infectious agent, this approach crosses interdisciplinary, geographical, cultural and socio-political boundaries and includes research, professional and public education, clinical care and respectful, safe disposition of the remains of those who died from the illness. In this paper, we aim to reduce fears of the unknown and encourage continued efforts to conquer the epidemic by describing the nature of the infectious agent, by providing a brief overview of its history, scope, and impact.

Prof. dr hab. Janusz T. Paweska & Dr. Petrus Jansen van Vuren Centre for Emerging and Zoonotic Disease of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

GVN Symposium on the Global Spread of Chikungunya

GVN Symposium on the Global Spread of Chikungunya

On November 5, GVN and its partner, ASTMH, convened a special symposium on “The Global Spread of Chikungunya: Epidemiology, Evolution, Pathogenesis and Global Needs” at the annual ASTMH meeting in New Orleans.  All three of GVN’s Task Force Chairs on Chikungunya spoke at the session, which was organized by Dr. Scott Weaver of UTMB, one of the co-chairs.  Other co-chairs are Dr. Marc Lecuit, Pasteur Institute, France, and Dr. John Fazakerley, Pirbright Institute, UK.  Click here for the full agenda.

June 18, 2014 The view from Estonia

June 18, 2014 The view from Estonia by GVN’s President. Here in the homeland of Skype, Mobile ID, online voting and X-Road data exchanges, it did not take long for more than a hundred local and foreign virologists to merge seamlessly into the first GVN Scandinavian-Baltic Conference. The June 10-13 conference included scientists and physicians from Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the U.S., France, and Ukraine. This first Baltic Region conference was organized by Professor Andres Merits from Estonia’s University of Tartu—a GVN-affiliated Center of Excellence—and by Professor Anders Vahlne from Sweden’s Karolinksa Institute and the director of the Scandinavia-Baltic GVN Center of Excellence. In addition, the conference was supported by several other groups including, the European Union, the Harry and Reba Huge Foundation. Science and technology may have been the reason for holding a conference of virologists, but diplomacy also played a role in bringing together so many strangers in Tallinn. In this case, the U.S. Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), Chever Voltmer, hosted a welcome reception for the conferees. In her welcoming remarks, DCM Voltmer reminded us of the importance of GVN’s international work, particularly as infectious diseases and their vectors move invisibly across borders and through nations. She congratulated us for working to bring together so many regional experts, as well as for including a delegation from Ukraine. In thanking the DCM for her generosity in welcoming our group, I noted how important it is for scientists to know each other’s scientific work, as well as each other as people, recognizing that trust and understanding of one’s colleagues can be critical to progress, particularly during times of crisis and confusion. The US embassy’s reception helped pave the way for the substantive scientific exchanges that followed. The conference was held at the Laulasmaa Resort, 30 minutes outside of Tallinn in an idyllic setting on the chilly Baltic Sea. The formal part of the program was given over to presentations from senior and junior scientists on viral challenges facing the Baltic region: HIV, Chikungunya, Human Papilloma Virus, Hepatitis B and C, among them. Novel vaccine technologies, new approaches to drug therapies, and epidemiological programs were featured. What struck me as a great feature of the conference was the number of post-doctoral fellows and PhD students in the mix. Interactions between the scientific veterans and the class of future virology leaders were critical to the chemistry and success of the conference. “Transformative,” was how one PhD student put it to me, after noting this was the first scientific conference she had been able to attend. One could see the optimism for future work and the hope to be engaged for the long-term. Members of the Ukrainian delegation were warmly welcomed participants at this Baltic conference. A senior Ukrainian delegate said it was his wish that GVN could help reduce the distance between Ukrainian virologists and colleagues in the Baltics and Scandinavia. Clearly, there was great interest on the part of conference participants to collaborate with regional and global colleagues. We take note! As these virologists left to return to their labs and wards, the GVN will start to work on how to continue dialogue, create lasting regional collaborations, and support the many excellent ideas which surfaced during the conference, both scientifically and administratively. It is my hope that we will be able to convene again, and to do so having supported a number of activities in the interim, each aimed at bolstering science and improving career paths for our next generation of virologists.

MEDIA ADVISORY

Who: The Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) and St. George’s University (SGU) in partnership with the Global Virus Network (GVN)

  • Dr. Robert Gallo, Director, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine and Co-Founder and Scientific Director, GVN
  • Dr. Anders Vahlne, Professor of Clinical Virology at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, and Center Director of the Swedish-Estonia GVN Center of Excellence
  • The Rt. Hon C. Modeste-Curwen, Minister of Health, Grenada
  • Calum N.L. Macpherson, Vice President and Founding Director, WINDREF
  • Dr.  Charles R. Modica, Chancellor, SGU

What: Virology Workshop for U.S. and Caribbean Journalists

When: 7:30 am, Thursday January 30, 2014 – 12:00 pm, Saturday February 1, 2014

Where: St. George’s University (SGU)

Contact: For more info, please contact Nora Grannell at ngrannell@gvn.org or 1 410-706-1966

Conference Overview:

The Viral Workshop for Journalists will provide reporters from varying U.S. and Caribbean media outlets an opportunity to learn firsthand about the nature of viruses, their spread, and virus treatments and vaccinations.  The workshop aims to take what can be a complex subject – the science and epidemiology of viruses – and break it down to a comprehensible level that can be utilized when reporters need to communicate to the masses about important news relating to viruses.  The workshop will feature expert virologists from around the world, including world renowned virologist Dr. Robert Gallo, most widely known for his co-discovery of HIV and his development of the blood test.  Dr. Gallo also discovered the first known human retroviruses (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2) which are endemic to regions in the Caribbean including Grenada.  Local officials including the Rt. Hon C. Modeste-Curwin, Minister of Health will open the meeting, and SGU students will engage with reporters in the laboratory, among other activities.

Other leading participants include Dr. Anders Vahlne, Professor of Clinical Virology in the Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institute, and Center Director of the Swedish-Estonian GVN Center of Excellence; Dr. Calum MacPherson, Vice Provost at St. George’s University and Vice President of WINDREF; Dr. Donald Jungkind, Professor of Microbiology at St. George’s University Medical School; and Dr. Charles Modica, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chancellor of St. George’s University.

Prominent Virologist Stanley Plotkin Joins GVN as Senior Advisor

Baltimore, MD: January 14, 2014 ;The Global Virus Network (GVN) is honored to have Dr. Stanley A. Plotkin, Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and consultant to all of the major vaccine manufacturers, serve as a senior advisor. Dr. Plotkin is world renowned for his development of the rubella vaccine- now in standard use throughout the world, and has worked extensively on the development and application of other vaccines including polio, rabies, varicella, rotavirus and cytomegalovirus.

 
“I am happy to join such a distinguished group of virologists,” said Dr. Plotkin.
 
“Stan is one of the most experienced and wisest of virologists who will be invaluable to the GVN objectives,” said GVN co-founder and scientific director Dr. Robert Gallo.
 
“Stan’s encyclopedic knowledge of viruses and their modes of transmission will be of enormous help in guiding the Scientific Leadership Board of GVN when decisions have to be made to limit the expansion of existing epidemics or curb the outbreak of newly emerging viruses,” said fellow GVN co-founder, Dr. Reinhard Kurth, Chairman of the Foundation Council, Ernst Schering Foundation in Berlin, Germany.
 

A New Pathogen in Paradise

A New Pathogen in Paradise

A new virus with a strange name recently emerged in the popular press and the public consciousness. On 19 December 2013, two confirmed cases of locally acquired chikungunyavirus (CHIK) were reported on the French Caribbean island of Martinique. The World Health Organization announced that this is the first time local transmission of this virus has been detected in the Americas.

 

CHIK is spread by the bite of infected mosquitos such as Aedesaegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) and Aedes albopictus (the Asian tiger mosquito).

 

In human infections, CHIK can cause a debilitating illness often characterized by headache, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash, and joint pain. It is rarely fatal, but it can lead to chronic, debilitating joint pain. The virus was discovered in 1953 in Tanzania during an epidemic of dengue-like illness, and acquired its name from a local phrase that means ‘that which bends up.’ In other words, causes pain.

 

Since its discovery, the virus has been responsible for outbreaks in Kenya (2004), the French island of Reunion off East Africa (2005-06), and in other locations.  The Reunion outbreak resulted in 244,000 cases and 203 deaths.  A 2006 outbreak in India involved more than a million cases.  Travelers returning from Africa and Réunion also introduced the virus into parts of Europe.

Subsequent outbreaks in India likely were driven by the virus’ ability to adapt to the more aggressive tiger mosquito, and to acquire mutations that shortened the period of viral replication in the mosquito and thereby increased the viral load.  The end result was a fast-moving epidemic.

“These observations point to one important fact that the more the efficiency with which we contain the primary outbreak of this disease, the better we are able to prevent adaptive mutations in the virus and the emergence of severe infections and explosive epidemics,” notes a member of the Global Virus Network (GVN), Dr. E. Sreekumar, at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Kerala, India.

There is no specific antiviral treatment available forchikungunya fever. Treatment is symptomatic and includes rest, fluids, and medicines to relieve symptoms of fever and aching such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol.(Aspirin should be avoided.)

 

Various research groups in the U.S. and Europe are working on a vaccine.  Recently, a group in the Netherlands reported on the production of a synthetic CHIK vaccine* that protected mice from infection and inflammation caused by the Réunion Island CHIK virus strain.

 

Like other viruses before it, CHIK has moved west into the Americas with the aid of tourists and international trade.  An effective vaccine would be an important tool in controlling this emerging virus.

* Effective Chikungunya Virus-like Particle Vaccine Produced in Insect Cells. Stefan W. Metz, Joy Gardner, CorinneGeertsema, Thuy T. Le, Lucas Goh, Just M. Vlak, AndreasSuhrbier, Gorben P. Pijlman. March 14, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0002124.

Gallo reflects on 30 years in HIV research

Gallo reflects on 30 years in HIV research

 

Dan Rodricks, of the Baltimore Sun in January 4 th interview of Dr. Robert Gallo, and discusses the current advances leading to a “functional cure” .

Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak in St. Martin

Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak in St. Martin

December 20, 2013, Baltimore, MD: St. Martin, in the Caribbean, is the first country in the Western Hemisphere to experience a Chikunguya virus (CHIKV) outbreak. Global Virus Network (GVN) member of the Sweden-Estonia GVN Center of Excellence and CHIKV specialist, Andres Merits, PhD says once we know the genotype, we will have a better estimate of the potential of the virus to spread.  Dr. Merits, Professor of Applied Virology, Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, Estonia, also noted, “Clinicians in the region of the Caribbean must be on high alert as CHIKV is often mistaken for Dengue fever or even malaria.  Once we know the genotype, we will know more about the efficiency of mosquito transmission, and public health officials can begin to take prevention measures to contain the outbreak.”  Such measures include aggressive mosquito control techniques, whereas travel restrictions are more likely to be relatively inefficient.  Dr. Merits said, “I am reasonably optimistic this outbreak will not be widespread.  However, this new outbreak is a stark reminder of why medical virologists worldwide must be prepared to share information and expertise quickly, and with the goal of safeguarding the health of people everywhere.  We do not yet have drug therapies for CHIKV, let alone a vaccine, but scientists are close and can develop these cures if governments and the public and private sector support them.”

Gallo Speaks to Dan Rodricks

Dr. Gallo spoke about the beginning of AIDS, the need for the next generation of trained virologists, the creation of the Global Virus Network, viruses in general, IHV’s HIV preventive vaccine candidate, a PEPFAR for the U.S., among other important issues.  At the end, the reporter thanks Gallo and his team for choosing the University of Maryland. If you get a moment, please tune in here: http://programs.wypr.org/podcast/dr-robert-gallo-thurs-december-19-12-1-pm

Distinguished Attorney Timothy C. Moynahan Named Chairman of the Global Virus Network (Gvn) Board of Directors

DISTINGUISHED ATTORNEY TIMOTHY C. MOYNAHAN NAMED CHAIRMAN OF THE GLOBAL VIRUS NETWORK (GVN) BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Will Forge Partnerships With Multinational Corporations & Private Benefactors To Mitigate The Threat & Financial Impact Of Pandemic Viral Diseases

Baltimore, MD (December 17, 2013) – The Global Virus Network (GVN), a coalition of the world’s foremost medical virology research centers working to prevent illness and death from pandemic viruses, today announced that Timothy C. Moynahan, Esq., has been elected as the 2014 Chairman of the Board of Directors.  The announcement was made by Robert C. Gallo, MD, co-founder of the GVN, Chair of GVN’s Scientific Leadership Board, and Director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.  Dr. Gallo was joined in this announcement by GVN co-founders Reinhard Kurth, MD, Chairman of the Foundation Council, Ernst Schering Foundation in Berlin, Germany and William Hall, MD, PhD, Vice Chair of the GVN Board of Directors, and Director of the Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases the University College Dublin in Ireland.  Mr. Moynahan takes on the Chairman’s role from immediate past Chairman G. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Company.

“Mr. Moynahan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise on international business and public-private sector partnerships to the GVN,” said Dr. Gallo, most notably known for his co-discovery of HIV and development of the blood test. “We are confident that Mr. Moynahan will lead the Board with vision  and passion for GVN’s critical mission of safeguarding life from potentially pandemic viral disease,” he added.   Mr. Moynahan served as the first Chairman of the GVN Board of Directors at the time of the GVN’s establishment in 2011.  “Tim’s insights into GVN as a founding Board member and as its inaugural Chairman position him perfectly to lead us successfully into the future,” continued Dr. Gallo.

One of Mr. Moynahan’s primary objectives is to develop partnerships with relevant multinational corporations and private benefactors in order to provide the substantial funding required to address the serious threat and exorbitant financial impact posed by potentially pandemic viral disease threatening public health.  “I am honored to serve as GVN’s Chairman once again and work alongside my dedicated and distinguished colleagues,” said Mr. Moynahan.  “Viruses continue to take tragic tolls on humanity in many ways, with millions of lives lost each year and staggering costs to the global economy.  The current flu season is a stark reminder:  According to the World Health Organization, seasonal flu in the United States alone results in 40,000 deaths and $87.1 billion in economic losses, both directly in terms of health care, and indirectly through work days lost and other factors.   One of my most important mandates is to raise awareness of the staggering impact of viruses on lives, commerce and businesses,” he added.

Mr. Moynahan, a preeminent litigation attorney, is the founder of The Moynahan Law Firm, one of Connecticut’s most respected law firms.   In addition to his role as Chairman of the Board of the Global Virus Network, Mr. Moynahan has been elected to the board of directors of numerous corporations and charitable organizations, including the Post University MBA Advisory Council, the Advisory Board of the Institute of Human Virology, the International Network for Cancer Treatment and Research (INCTR) and President of the Connecticut Chapter of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the United States.