Infectious disease is caused by the interaction of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria or protozoa with their hosts, wild and domestic animals or human beings. Specific molecules originating from both the host and the pathogen determine the outcome of such interactions. In addition, progression and impact of infectious diseases is influenced by the specific environment of these hosts. Animals living under human care can be treated or vaccinated; however, such options are usually not available for wild animals. Even worse, infectious disease in wildlife often goes unnoticed, but can be a threat for wild and domestic animals as well as human beings.
Research within our group aims at understanding host-pathogen interactions and forms a bridge between studies at the molecular level and investigations into unusual morbidity and mortality of animals including wildlife.
Infectious Bronchitis in Birds caused by Coronavirus
At the beginning of the process leading to sick animals stands the first contact of pathogens with receptors located on various cells of the host. The characterization of these contacts allows a better understanding of diseases but also the development of specific options to prevent and treat these infectious diseases. Various coronaviruses occur in wild and domestic birds and cause a range of diseases. Better vaccines against these diseases are needed, and our research will contribute to their development.
Wildlife Mortality Incidents
We investigate around 500 unusual wildlife mortality incidents a year, through post-mortem examination of specimens submitted by the field. We collaborate with a large network of institutes for the additional diagnostic testing, and initiate further research on project-basis if necessary. Tissue-banking allows for retrospective studies. We also contribute to targeted wildlife disease surveillance/monitoring in the Netherlands, including the dead wild bird monitoring for avian influenza. Achievements over the past years include the detection and further investigation of zoonotic and wildlife diseases previously considered absent from the Netherlands, such as tularemia, Usutu virus infection, ranavirus infection and tick-borne encephalitis.