The super group of arboviruses (for arthropod-borne viruses) comprises five families of viruses (Togaviridae, Rhabdoviridae, Reoviridae, Flaviviridae, and Bunyaviridae), with over a thousand members distributed worldwide. The most infamous members are Westnile, dengue, yellow fever, Chikungunya, Rift valley fever, Schmallenberg, and Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever viruses. These viruses are mainly transmitted by arthropods such as mosquitoes, sand-flies, and ticks. Many arboviruses cause severe illness in humans such as encephalitis, hepatitis, and hemorrhagic fever. Due to their mode of transmission as well as global warming and human activity, these viruses are considered emerging agents of diseases. The recent outbreaks of Westnile virus in USA (about 5,000 infected persons and 240 lethal cases in 2012) and Canada (about 130 cases in Québec) underscore the importance to take seriously arboviruses as potential emerging agents of disease. Some are now classified as potential biological weapons in bioterrorism. Currently there are no available vaccines or treatments approved for human use against most arboviruses.
Bunyaviridae are important pathogens in vertebrates and humans. The family comprises five genera (Hantavirus, Nairovirus, Orthobunyavirus, Phlebovirus, and Tospovirus) with over 350 family members worldwide. With the exception of hantaviruses, they are arboviruses. As for many other arboviruses, research on bunyaviruses has not had a high priority in the past, and therefore relatively little is known about their strategies for transmission and infection. The aim of our laboratory is to investigate early host-arbovirus interactions using bunyaviruses as a model. To this end, various cell biological and molecular approaches, including state-of-the-art confocal microscopy- and flow cytometry-based methods, in fixed and living cells, are employed in combination with a large panel of perturbants of the cell functions (e.g. drugs, constitutively active and inactive mutants, siRNAs etc.). Through this research program, we expect to gain a detailed picture of the molecular and cellular mechanisms subverted by these viruses to infect a host.
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