Partner 19 – University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (VETMEDUNI)

The University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria, is the second oldest veterinary school in the world, founded in 1765 by Empress Maria Theresia. In 1996 the University moved to a new campus, which is considered one of the largest and most modern in Europe. The University has a permanent staff of 900, approximately half are scientific and half are support staff. The annual University budget amounts to 40 million Euro, and the annual income is approx. 10 million Euro. There are 2,500 registered students. The animal hospital is treating 24,000 cases per year. The University is dedicated to research, and state-of-the-art research facilities and equipment are available throughout the University including more than ten level-3 laboratory and animal facilities. The research output is close to 1,000 original Journal publications annually.

The major achievements of the group regarding mosquito-borne (flavi)viruses are:

Identification, characterization, detailed analysis and follow-up of all aspects (entomological, virological, serological, pathological, zoonotic, diagnostic, epidemiological, etc.) of Usutu virus, a close relative to West Nile virus, which emerged in Austria in 2001, and spread meanwhile to other central European countries (15 PubMed-listed publications on all aspects of Usutu virus infections);

Identification and characterization of a lineage 2 West Nile virus (WNV), which emerged in 2004 for the first time in Europe (Hungary), and spread in summer 2008 all over Hungary and to the eastern part of Austria; this virus has been affecting several different species of birds (especially birds of prey), horses, sheep and human beings; high mortality has been observed in birds, and moderate in horses; human beings developed mainly meningitis (n > 30); no human fatalities up to now. The virus has been identified in – a comparably high number of – mosquito pools, especially in Culex mosquitoes, indicating that this virus will stay and overwinter in Europe, as evidenced by severe outbreaks in summer 2009, too. Since this lineage 2 WNV shares only 80% nucleotide identy to the lineage 1 WNVs, which have been around in Europe for a long time, it is quite likely that this virus will significantly spread in Europe and may in the near future also be of significant public health concern. This virus infection must be monitored closely and still a lot, in particular also entomologically, has to be done → please see the proposed description of work.

Characterization of a lineage 1 WNV which emerged in Hungary in 2003 in animals and humans and which turned out to be most closely related to the WNV which was introduced in 1999 to New York – this finding may shed new light on the introduction of WNV to America;

Molecular and biological characterization of Rabensburg virus, which turned out to be either a novel WNV (suggested lineage 3) or a novel flavivirus;

Entomological and virological studies on Tahyna virus, a mosquito-transmitted Orthobunyavirus, which is endemic in central Europe and causes a human febrile illness.

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