Bats are considered unique in their ability to host zoonotic viruses with severe public health consequences. Meanwhile, the sheer abundance of rodent species worldwide (approximately twice as many as bats) and their close associations with humans, render rodent hosts a constant threat for zoonotic disease emergence.
We study bat-borne pathogens currently in Finland and Kenya, while rodent-borne pathogens are studied widely with our network of collaborators.
We have a number of projects on companion, production and wild animals. Our research includes pathogen discovery, development of diagnostics, and epidemiology. Recently we have studied e.g. Bartonella infections in dogs and moose, causes of diarrhea in production animals, mechanisms of tolerance in Aleutian disease, and a novel pathogen causing severe skin infections. We are also developing new vaccines for veterinary use. We are currently launching new projects using molecular epidemiology and statistics to do large scale research on the causes of morbidity and mortality in production animal populations both within Finland and with international collaborators.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a major public health problem around the globe with more than 10 million cases annually. Emergence of multidrug resistant tuberculosis worsens the treatment and control options continuously. Drug susceptibility testing (DST) is currently based on the proportion method, which is a culture-based method, and requires several weeks and multiple methodologies to complete and this can lead to delay in initiation of appropriate therapy resulting in death for many patients and the commercial molecular-based assays are able to provide preliminary indication of drug resistance to a minimal number of drugs.
The research projects goal is to develop a culture-independent next generation sequencing based assay for obtaining full diagnostic information, including prediction of resistance to all anti-mycobacterial drugs rapidly, accurately, and cheaply. This method should be able to identify resistance-conferring mutations or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) related to each anti-tuberculosis drug.
Virome and microbiome
Next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled us to investigate the gut microbiome and virome role in health and disease of different vertebrates. To explore and study the composition of microbiota and its effect on health and disease our group has acquired Illumina’s state of the art MiSeq next generation sequencing platform.
Currently, our group is busy studying microbiome and virome of canine, bovine, mink, fox, chicken, vole and humans. To understand the biology and evolution of pathogens we are also sequencing and studying full genomes of various viral and bacterial pathogens. In projects with HUSLAB, we are developing applications to identify any viral sequences directly from human samples and have developed a laboratory and bioinformatic pipeline for this.