People

The emerging infections research group is lead by Tarja Sironen, associate professor of emerging infectious diseases at faculties of medicine and veterinary medicine, University of Helsinki.
Tarja Sironen

PhD, Associate Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases

I am the Director of Helsinki One Health network and work both at the Department of Virology, Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Veterinary Biosciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. I also serve as the Vice-Dean responsible for social engagement for the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. My One Health research focuses on emerging infectious diseases and factors driving spillover from wildlife to domestic animals and to people. Find out more through Tarja Sironen ORCID account.

tarja.sironen@helsinki.fi

Follow Tarja on Twitter

Essi Korhonen

PhD, docent

I am a university researcher working at the Faculties of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. Additionally, I hold a visiting researcher status at the University of Nairobi, Department of Medical Microbiology. The focus of my current research is on vector-borne diseases and the effects of environmental change on their emergence and incidence. My main projects investigate vector-borne diseases and their disease burden in a changing environment in Kenya. Apart from vector-borne diseases, I also study bat- and rodent-borne diseases, as well as diseases affecting production animals. I possess extensive experience in fieldwork and biosafety, and one of my ambitions is science education and popularization. I am a member of the Helsinki One Health and Finnish Biosafety network. In recent years, I have actively participated in outbreak response efforts, including those related to SARS-CoV-2 and H5N1 outbreaks. To learn more about my research, please visit Essi Korhonen ORCID account.

essi.m.korhonen@helsinki.fi

Ravi Kant

PhD, Docent in medical microbiology, university researcher and principal investigator

I am a senior researcher and principal investigator in the group with background in IT, NSG, bioinformatics, epidemiology, virology, and microbiology. I also serve as an Associate Professor (visiting) at the Medical University of Gdansk. My current research focus is on genomics and evolution of various pathogens. I am currently leading several projects related to emerging infectious diseases, veterinary microbiology, microbial genomics, epidemiology, and One Health.  I am also interested in development of various animal models to study emerging infectious diseases and currently lead the Viikki BSL3 animal facility at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki with Dr. Tarja Sironen.

More details on my research and publication can be found on my Homepage or through the Research Portal Profile.

ravi.kant@helsinki.fi

Jenni Vir­tanen

PhD, post-doctoral researcher 

I'm a clinical microbiologist and recently defended my thesis. My research interests include infectious diseases in humans and animals focusing on human-animal interface, evolution, transmission, virus-host-dynamics and host-jumps. Another strong area of interest is diagnostics development and means to control the spread of infectious diseases. My work has included parvoviruses, poxviruses, coronaviruses, and other respiratory viruses. My previous studies can be found through Jenni Virtanen ORCID account.

jenni.me.virtanen@helsinki.fi

Kirsi Aaltonen

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

I am a virologist and work both at the Department of Virology, Faculty of Medicine and the Department of Veterinary Biosciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. My current research interests focus on emerging infectious diseases and factors driving pathogens from wildlife to people and domestic animals. My special interests are in outbreak response, field work; home and abroad, diagnostic- and vaccine development, epidemiology, and biosafety issues. I have also concentrated on aerosol studies and virus survival experiments. I have worked on the recent respiratory virus pandemics, and animal pathogens of note such as parvoviruses, as well as emerging arboviruses. In addition I have experience with several bacterial pathogens. Links to my previous studies can be found through my ORCID account or through the Kirsi Aaltonen Research Portal profile.

kirsi.aaltonen@helsinki.fi

Ruut Uusitalo

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

I am a postdoctoral researcher conducting multidisciplinary research that combines the fields of GIScience, virology, and public health. My research interests include investigating the distribution patterns and transmission routes of zoonotic diseases. I am particularly interested in how factors—such as climate, ecological factors, socioeconomic conditions, and human activity—affect the current and future risk of zoonotic diseases. While my current research primarily focuses on Africa, I am also interested in understanding the distribution and dynamics of zoonotic diseases in Northern Europe. My research activities include designing sampling strategies, conducting field work for sample collections, performing laboratory analyses to screen pathogens, and utilizing GIS analyses and disease risk modelling methods with satellite-based environmental data and other data. By collaborating with excellent local and international partners, as well as the amazing colleagues within the EID research group, my goal is to generate novel insights aimed at preventing future zoonotic diseases and improving public health outcomes. If you're interested in exploring my previous studies, you can find them through Ruut Uusitalo ORCID account.

ruut.uusitalo@helsinki.fi

Hanna Vauhkonen

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

I am a biochemist with a strong background on molecular methodology (PhD in cancer and forensic genetics). 

As a member of the EID group I am interested in improving methods for diagnostics and surveillance of pathogens with pandemic potential. I work as a part of the next generation sequencing (NGS) team and am involved in numerous projects needing sequence data.

I have a special interest in Nanopore MinION, the fieldable pocket-size real-time NGS device, and intend to develop laboratory procedures for its use in different situations.

hanna.vauhkonen@helsinki.fi

Joseph Ogola

DVM, PhD student

I am a PhD student working on emerging zoonotic viruses in wild small mammals in Kenya. This work aims to answer three key research question;  which viruses are hosted by these small mammals, what are their phylogenetic relationship to known emerging and re emerging infections (EIDs), what are the transmission routes and lastly are bats and rodents transmitting viral pathogens to livestock?

joseph.ogola@helsinki.fi

Hus­sein Al­burkat

MSc, PhD student in medical virology

I am a PhD student in the team studying rodent-borne viruses. I did my Master thesis on Mammarenavirus LCMV that infects humans in Southern Iraq, which led to the detection of two novel LCMV strains. Currently I am working in projects studying rodent-borne viruses from both field caught rodents and patient samples from three different environments: Finland, Kenya and Iraq. The study interest includes serology diagnostics (to screen the samples to viruses, such as arenaviruses, flaviviruses, hantaviruses, and orthobunyaviruses), virus detection, distribution and molecular epidemiology. We study these pathogens using NGS techniques. 

Mert Erdin

MSc, PhD student

I am a PhD student working on evolutionary dynamics of emerging viruses, i.e. orthohantaviruses or Crimean-congo hemorrhagic fever virus, from variety of animals. Primarily, understanding evolutionary characteristics of emerging viruses from small mammals including rodents and bats, is the center of my research. Also, performing virome analysis in ticks and hunting novel viruses from both small mammals and ticks are my additional research topics. The main aim is to understand the viral diversity, inferring spillover routes in wild animals along with global dispersal history, and their effects to the molecular evolution, in addition to surveilling the echoes of molecular adaptations to viral phenotypes. Thus, my research is to provide data in the concept of one health for public health and outbreak preparedness. My previous studies can be found through Mert Erdin ORCID account, or through Mert Erdin — University of Helsinki.

mert.erdin@helsinki.fi

Vinaya Venkat

MSc, PhD student

I am a PhD student from the Microbiology and Biotechnology Doctoral Programme, interested in respiratory virus infection and diagnostics. I have worked on studying SARS-CoV-2 transmission among hospitalised and quarantined subjects, optimized our lab's diagnostics for SARS-CoV-2 and was involved in the BioRodDis project where we performed zoonotic pathogen surveillance among small mammals across Europe. As a PhD student, my work involves studying infection of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron infection in animals and understanding the use of saliva in respiratory virus diagnostics. 

vinaya.venkat@helsinki.fi

Jiahui Zhu

MSc, PhD student

I’m a PhD student working on infectious disease epidemiology in humans. My research focus on evolution, transmission, and epidemiology of mycobacterium tuberculosis and SARS-CoV-2. My current research is the evolution and transmission dynamic of SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant. 

jiahui.zhu@helsinki.fi

Ismail Abdirahman

PhD Student

abdirahman.ismail@helsinki.fi

Viktor Olander

MSc, PhD student

I am a Doctoral Researcher focusing on mosquito- and tick-borne viruses in Kenya. In my research, I study the spread of arthropod-borne diseases in areas with changing land use at the intersection between human populations and the environment. This work is done mainly by screening arthropods for known pathogens using different techniques including PCR and NGS. You can follow my work through Viktor Olander ORCID account.

viktor.olander@helsinki.fi

Anna-Maria Moisander

DVM, PhD Student

anna-maria.moisander-jylha@avi.fi

Luukas Pennström

MSc, PhD student

I am a PhD student working with the clinical application of vaporous hydrogen peroxide and other decontamination methods for controlling high-impact microorganisms in veterinary and zoonotic settings. My research aims to develop standardized protocols for decontamination to improve safety within laboratory and veterinary environments. By assessing the effectiveness of these methods against pathogens, notably MRSA, across varied settings. My work contributes to advancing infection control practices in veterinary medicine and the broader healthcare context.

luukas.pennstrom@helsinki.fi

Simo Miettinen

MSc, Laboratory coordinator

I´m a microbiologist with a healthcare background as I also have a medical laboratory scientist degree. I´m interested in emerging new viruses and fungi. My work is to give backbone to the scientific research done in Viikki EID group, especially in maintenance and biosafety of the BSL-3 laboratory and to guide our African laboratories. 

simo.miettinen@helsinki.fi

Johanna Martikainen
Alumni

Alumni members: Dr. Lara Dutra, Dr. Fathiah Zakham

If your name is missing here please contact: ravi.kant@helsinki.fi