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Influenza A viruses (IAVs) have a significant impact in both human and animal health. Avian and swine IAVs pose a considerable threat to the respective animal industries, while some animal viruses can cross over to infect humans in isolated zoonotic events, or, more rarely, when they are able to spread within the human population, in pandemics resulting in significant morbidity and mortality.The first line of defense against zoonotic IAVs is their rapid identification in the field. Current methods, include classical and molecular diagnostic tool, and require several days to fully identify the field IAV strains and to assess their phenotype. The first goal of this research is to deploy and validate cutting edge tools, namely, the Oxford Nanopore MinION, for the rapid detection and accurate characterization of IAVs in animals in the field. This approach has several advantages, most notably the reduction of diagnosis from days, down to hours and the identification of the actual threat of detected virus to animals or humans.The study of the mechanisms by which avian viruses transmit and adapt into mammals, is the second goal of this research. We will achieve this by a combination of in vitro and in vivo experiments, and with in-depth sequencing of avian viruses that will undergo mammalian adaptation.Finally, while IAVs of the H1 and H3 subtypes currently infect humans and pigs, a broad range of viruses, including avian H1, H2, H5 and H7 viruses could infect them in the future, resulting in pandemics or epizootics. For this reason, we will investigate the efficacy of broadly reactive vaccine candidates in pigs with potential applications both in animal and human health.

Kyriakis, Constantinos
Auburn University
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