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Viral ​Zoo​nosis

We study animal viruses that can jump to humans (zoonotic viruses) using West Nile virus as a model. Thanks to this knowledge, we develop new vaccines, antiviral drugs, and diagnostic tools to combat these viruses. ​

Grupo de investigación dependiente del

Biotechnology

Most of emerging human diseases have a zoonotic origin, this implies that they have been transmitted from animals to humans.

The Viral Zoonoses (ZOOVIR) group is dedicated to the development, innovation and improvement of diagnostic techniques, vaccines and antiviral drugs for the surveillance and control of emerging viruses.

Our main aim of study are those viruses transmitted by arthropods (mosquitoes and ticks), also called arboviruses (arthropod borne viruses). Within them, we focus on the flaviviruses transmitted by mosquitoes, a group of RNA viruses that includes relevant pathogens for animal and human health:

West Nile Virus​

Virus Zika

Virus dengue

Virus Usutu

In addition to flaviviruses, our research also addresses other important non-vector-borne zoonotic viruses:

SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)

Hepatitis E virus​

Investigation

Emerging flaviviruses: West Nile virus and beyond

During the last decades, we are observing an increase in the incidence of viral zoonoses, with the associated risk for animal and human health. 

A wide variety of factors such as the globalization of trade and transport, together with global warming, changes in land use, destruction of ecosystems and urbanization have contributed, for example, to the proliferation of certain mosquitoes that act as transmitting agents (vectors) of some flaviviruses. 

Our main object of study is West Nile virus, a mosquito-borne flavivirus whose natural reservoir are wild birds. This virus is responsible for outbreaks of encephalitis in horses and humans, which can be fatal. We also study other flaviviruses such as the Zika virus, associated with malformations in newborns and neurological disorders; the denge virus, responsible for a febrile illness that can evolve into a serious condition and become fatal; or the Usutu virus, another bird pathogen associated with sporadic cases of infection in humans. 

Our research is aimed to:

- Identify cellular and viral factors necessary for the multiplication of flaviviruses

- Search new drugs to combat flavivirus infection

- Generate new vaccines to prevent flavivirus infection

- Develop new biotechnological tools to improve detection and diagnosis of flaviviruses

- Analyze infection in animal models, including natural hosts 

The results of our research included:​

- Identification of the essential role of certain lipids (sphingolipids and fatty acids) for the multiplication of flaviviruses

- Characterization of  the mechanism of action of antiviral drugs such as Favipiravir

- Generation of  vaccines against West Nile virus, Zika virus and Usutu virus

- Development of new methodologies (ELISA and qRT-PCR) for the detection of flaviviruses

- Assesment of  the susceptibility of natural hosts such as magpies (Pica pica) to West Nile virus infection

All these investigations are carried out by the ZOOVIR group thanks to a multidisciplinary approach that combines virology, cell biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology, and animal experimentation..

You can follow the progress of our latest research on the Twitter account​ @hostmevir_ (https://twitter.com/HOSTMEVIR_)


Other viral zoonoses: our response against COVID-19 

The techniques, tools and accumulated expertise of the ZOOVIR group working with multiple zoonotic viruses, allow us to address other zoonoses such as that associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the spillover of a bat coronavirus to humans.

Our current efforts to combat COVID-19 are focused to investigate new antiviral strategies against SARS-CoV-2 based on nucleic acids (RNA) and to evaluate their efficacy in animal models. These studies pursue the development of effective drugs to combat the virus.

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