The multidisclipinary viral zoonoses research unit at University of Helsinki targets emerging and re-emerging infections – particularly viral zoonoses.

The Viral Zoonoses Research Unit at the University of Helsinki is a dynamic, multidisciplinary team dedicated to exploring the intricate world of emerging and re-emerging infections, with a special emphasis on viral zoonoses. Our scope of inquiry is broad, encompassing pivotal areas such as evolution, epidemiology, diagnostics, ecology, and the complex interplay between hosts and viruses. From the molecular intricacies to broader population dynamics, we delve deep into understanding the nuances of these infectious agents.

Embedded within the Faculties of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, alongside the Helsinki University Hospital Laboratory (HUSLAB), our unit possesses a talented cohort of Principal Investigators (PIs). Among them are Olli Vapalahti, Tarja Sironen, Jussi Hepojoki, Tomas Strandin, Eili Huhtamo, Giuseppe Balistreri, Essi Korhonen, and Ravi Kant. 

We embrace the OneHealth concept and the vision that apart from current palette of diseases and its changes, mankind is increasingly confronting new emerging infections due to environmental changes, globalization – yet with new technologies to study, diagnose and battle them. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our research endeavors have pivoted to address urgent needs in detecting, monitoring, and combating SARS-CoV-2 infection. Our initiatives encompass a diverse array of activities, from developing antibody tests to analyzing full genomes and exploring potential therapeutic interventions. Within our state-of-the-art Biosafety level 3 laboratories, we collaborate on projects aimed at understanding and containing the spread of coronavirus.

Beyond COVID-19, our research landscape is rich and diverse. We investigate a spectrum of viruses, including alphaviruses, flaviviruses, arenaviruses, and hantaviruses. Additionally, we delve into bacterial-borne pathogens and their impact on both human and animal health, all through the lens of the One Health perspective. Our endeavors extend to studying the emergence of vector-borne diseases in the context of climate change. We methodically examine the distribution of vectors like mosquitoes and ticks, unraveling the virome they harbor through comprehensive virus discovery and microbiome analyses. Our geographical scope spans from Finland to Kenya, where we collaborate closely with the KAVI Institute at the University of Nairobi, contributing to the preparedness against emerging infections in Kenya and beyond.