I am a researcher and associate professor in molecular virology at the department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health at SLU. My main research interests are virus discovery, vector-borne viruses and their interactions with their host/vector as well as infection biology.
I) Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are major health threats to the human and animal population and can have large economic implications. Many of the diseases that have emerged in the last decades, such as Zika, West Nile and Bluetongue are caused by viruses that are spread by an arthropod vector (so called arboviruses). Hence, apart from knowledge of which viruses circulate in the human/domestic animal/wildlife/vector interface it is of crucial importance to also understand the mechanisms that allow viruses to replicate and spread in both their mammalian hosts and in their arthropod vector, this to allow for design of better preventive strategies.
*By identifying and characterising viruses that is present in arthropod vectors we will have an increased opportunity to control viral/disease spread. As many of the EIDs occur in lower latitude developing countries and where there is a close contact between wildlife/vectors and humans/domestic animals we have collaborations with, for example, researchers at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique and at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Together with them we collect mosquitoes and ticks that are used in viral discovery studies. We also perform similar studies in Sweden to know what viruses our Swedish vectors are carriers of.
*Although arboviruses belong to different viral families, they all have in common that they infect vertebrates and are biologically transmitted by an arthropod vector (mosquitoes, ticks and culicoides), hence they need to be able to replicate in the arthropod vector. Therefore, in our studies we try to identify what mechanisms allow arboviruses to spread and replicate in their insect vector and what determine its host specificity. For this purpose, we are using so called insect-specific viruses (ISVs) – this is viruses that can only replicate in the vector but it’s believed that many arboviruses have originally been ISVs that through evolution have gained the ability to also infect vertebrates. We are also studying if ISVs could be used as biological control agents for arboviruses by restricting their ability to infect and spread in the mosquito.
II) The aetiology of many diseases is believed to be multifactorial with concurrent infections of multiple viruses being crucial for the development of the complete clinical picture. In pigs this has been shown through metagenomic analysis, revealing a complex co-infection situation in both healthy and diseased individuals. Thus, it is important to understand how these viruses alone or in co-infection situations interact with the host and/or each other and how this direct and/or indirectly affect pig health.
*Many of the viruses discovered in our metagenomiv studies are small DNA viruses such as, apart from PCV2, different porcine parvoviruses (incl. bocaviruses) and torque teno sus viruses (TTSuV). To gain a better understanding of the role that these may have directly or indirectly in disease development we, apart from performing metagenomic studies in healthy and diseased pigs, work with genetic characterisation and prevalence studies of these viruses. We are also conducting mechanistic studies to understand how the viruses alone or together interact with the immune system of the porcine host.