I did my PhD (2006-2010) at the section of virology, BVF, SLU on the
topic "Applications of viral metagenomic – looking for the unkown".
During these years we used high-throughput sequencing to investigate to
viriome of different animals and vectors. For example, viral
metagenomics was used to investigate minks suffering from a neurological
disorder named "Shaking mink syndrome" and this way we discovered an
astrovirus in the brain of diseased minks. We were also the first group
identifying porcine bocavirus in pigs when investigating the aetiology
of post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS). Since I finished
my PhD I have continued working as a postdoc, lecturer and researcher at the section of virology with a focus on metagenomics but also on more basic virus research.
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 SARS, West Nile and Bluetongue etc. are caused by viruses that have a wildlife reservoir and/or 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.
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.
Thus, currently I have three major directions of my research – metagenomics, infection biology of arboviruses and DNA virus infections of pigs:
- By identifying and characterising viruses that is present in wildlife hosts and 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 in regions with high wildlife diversity and where there is a close contact between wildlife/vectors and humans/domestic animals we try to focus our metagenomic research to areas like this. Hence, for example together with researchers at the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique we are using metagenomic and high-throughput sequencing approaches to investigate the virome of vectors such as mosquitoes and biting midges collected in Zambezi Vally, an area with intense human activity and where agriculture and livestock are economically important.
- Among arboviruses, Bunyaviridae is one of the largest family with over 300 named isolates and members such as Rift Valley Fever virus, Crimean-congo Hemorrhagic fever virus and La Crosse virus. To gain insights into innate immune responses against bunyaviruses and provide better understanding of these emerging important pathogens of which many are zoonotic agents I use Schmallenberg virus (SBV), a recently emerging pathogen of ruminants that is spread by Culicuides (biting midges), as a model. Using techniques such as reverse genetics, RNA-seq and protein mutagenesis etc we aim to provide knowledge of the role of the viral protein NSs as an inhibitor of host gene expression, describe the host cell transcriptome response to SBV infection and identify antiviral factors that may inhibit SBV replication. This research project is in close collaboration with Dr. Alain Kohls research group at the Center for Virus Research (CVR), Glasgow University in Scotland.
- Metagenomic studies of pigs have shown a very complex and diverse co-infection situation in both healthy and diseased pigs. Many of the viruses discovered are small DNA viruses such as, apart from PCV2, different porcine bocaviruses and torque teno sus viruses (TTSuV) and these appear in many cases to be ubiquitous in the pig populations. 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.