Most known human viral pathogens originate in infected animals (zoonosis). Arthropod borne viruses (arbo-viruses) are able to propagate in insects and in higher eukaryotes and thereby exhibit peculiar strategies permitting infections of two or even more evolutionary distant host species. We constantly witness emergence of new arboviruses exhibiting previously unknown pathogenic characteristics and invading novel ecological niches (e.g. the flaviviruses such as West Nile, Zika and Usutu). Arboviruses, such as Dengue and Chikungunya, are major causes of human and animal diseases worldwide. They are responsible for a significant public health and economic burden, causing sporadic outbreaks and epidemics. However, some viruses are only found in arthropods (e.g., insect restricted viruses) and are incapable of infecting vertebrate hosts.
In our laboratory, we explore molecular mechanisms of host restriction and specificity in mammalian and insect hosts. We study interaction of viruses with host immune system, and cellular mechanisms of viral propagation and pathogenesis. Using classical virology, immunology, cell biology, live cell imaging and genetics combined with structural approaches using electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography of viral and host factors, we aim to gain molecular understanding of how new viruses emerge in nature and how existing viruses acquire new traits.