The viral zoonosis research unit is lead by Olli Vapalahti, professor of zoonotic virology at faculties of medicine and veterinary medicine, University of Helsinki.

The Unit is a combination of younger PI's, post-docs, graduate students, undergraduate students and technical staff presented here in more detail.

Olli Vapalahti

MD, PhD, Professor of zoonotic virology (since 2003)

I work both at medical and veterinary faculties of University of Helsinki, Finland. I have supervised 12 finalized PhD projects and have 277 PubMed publications (July 2018) mainly on arboviruses and zoonoses. I am also a specialist in clinical microbiology with clincial diagnostic responsibilites at Helsinki University Hospital laboratories with a unit for viral zoonoses. I am member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters, and member of EVD-LabNet (Emerging Viral diseases Laboratory Network).

Eili Huhtamo

PhD, Docent in virology, university researcher and principal investigator

I am a senior researcher and principal investigator in the group and guiding a team working on mosquito-borne viruses. We are studying MOBO viruses such as flavi, alpha and orthobunyaviruses from patient samples and mosquitoes collected in Finland, Kenya and Italy. The research interests include MOBO virus detection, variety, vector associations, distribution and molecular epidemiology.

Teemu Smura

PhD, researcher

The focus of my research is on virus evolution. This includes studies on the genetic variation of virus populations, molecular epidemiology of RNA viruses, the evolutionary mechanisms behind the emergence of viruses and viral genetic determinants of virus cell/tissue tropism.

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.

Essi Korhonen

PhD, Docent in virology, university researcher and principal investigator

I am a principal investigator in the team studying mosquito-borne viruses. I did my PhD about the dengue and zika virus infections of Finnish travelers, concentrating on human samples and mainly in diagnostics and molecular epidemiology of these viruses. Currently I am working in projects studying mosquito-borne viruses from both field caught mosquitoes and patient samples from Finland, Italy and Kenya. In Kenya project I am coordinating the mosquito collections and screening of mosquitoes for viruses. Though my background is in microbiology I have gotten a bit carried away with mosquitoes so part of my time goes in collecting and identifying mosquitoes. In our MOBO team I also teach undergraduate and PhD students in lab.

Lev Levanov

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

Currently, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher at University of Helsinki, Department of Virology. My research involves Flavivirus, Hantavirus and Filovirus infections. Several projects are ongoing: 1) Production of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV)-like particles in mammalian cells based on alphavirus and mammalian expression vectors for diagnostic and neutralization studies 2) Production of Ebola and Marburg virus proteins in mammalian cells for diagnostic assays; 3) Pseudotyping of Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) particles with the surface glycoproteins Gn-Gc of Hantaviruses (Puumala virus, Tula virus, Dobrava virus) and Gp of Filoviruses (Ebola virus, Marburg virus) for epitope mapping, diagnostics and neutralization studies. 4) Generation of infectious clones, reporter replicons and reporter virus-like particles for Flaviviruses (TBEV and Zika) and using them in pathogenesis and molecular virology studies.

Ilja Pljusnin

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

Mariia Bogacheva

PhD, post-doctoral researcher

Lauri Kareinen

DVM, PhD student

I am a veterinarian and currently doing my PhD studies in the Virology group. My main focus of research is the serodiagnostics of viral diseases using a new fluorescence based method called TR-FRET.

Jenni Virtanen

MSc, PhD student in clinical veterinary medicine

My research topic is Aleutian mink disease virus (AMDV) which causes a severe infection in mink and infects several other carnivores and mustelids as well. I’m studying virus epidemiology and evolution, and diversity in Finland by sequencing Finnish virus strains. I am also studying disease tolerance. My previous studies can be found through my Orchid account.

Leonora Szirovicza

MSc, PhD student in virology. 

My PhD project is on reptarenaviruses, the causative agents of boid inclusion body disease (BIBD). BIBD is a devastating disease of captive boid snakes and poses a threat to whole snake collections worldwide. In my research I focus on coinfections by different reptarenavirus species and the possible reassortment of the viral genome segments. I also work with several snake cell lines to examine the tissue tropism of reptarenaviruses. The final aim would be to reveal the factors underlying the pathogenesis of BIBD.

Ruut Uusitalo

MSc, PhD student

I am a PhD student in the Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences (DENVI) and I am linked both to Olli Vapalahti’s and ECHOLAB research groups. The aim of my PhD project is to apply GIS-analyses and virological approaches by focusing on modeling and mapping pathogen distributions and screening for vector-borne viruses in Finland and in Kenya. My current activities include studying the distribution of tick-borne encephalitis virus(TBEV) based on patient, tick and environmental data now and in future climate. The aim is to map and predict the distribution of vectors and vector-borne pathogens in the changing climate and habitat alteration patterns by using GIS and produce new information to promote public health.

Rommel Iheozor-Ejiofor

MSc, PhD student in Medical virology.

My PhD project is to study Hantavirus entry, glycoprotein interactions and other interactions using Vesicular stomatitis virus pseudotypes. I’m rescuing recombinant Vesicular stomatitis virus expressing hantavirus glycoproteins as pseudotype vaccine candidates. My other research interests include reverse genetics, protein expression in eukaryotic calls and safe virus structure studies using VSV pseudotypes.

Lorna Culverwell

Bsc (Hons), MSc, DIC, PhD, Postdoctoral researcher

I am a medical entomologist with 12 years (and counting) experience working in mosquito research. To date, I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in setting up or assisting with lab and/ or field projects in the UK, Finland, France, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China; have trained staff and students in China, Finland and the UK in mosquito field collection and lab techniques as well as morphological and molecular species identifications; and co-supervised two MSc students. My PhD focused upon the mosquitoes of Finland, their geographic distributions, and associated RNA viruses, and added four new species records for the country as well as 147 potentially new RNA viruses. I’m a member of the Royal Entomological Society, the Finnish Diptera Research Group (Suomen Dipteratyöryhmä), Societas pro Fauna et Flora Fennica, and nominated country representative for VectorNet (European network for medical and veterinary entomology).

My current research is a 4-year Koneen Säätiö funded project to write a book concerning the mosquitoes of northern Europe. It will include a wealth of updated information for mosquitoes in Norway, Sweden and Finland, not limited to distribution maps, bionomics, vector information and morphological descriptions of all life stages of the 52 species in the region. Mosquito research has certainly become a passion – long may it continue!

Anna-Maria Moisander-Jylhä

PhD student

Kirsi Aaltonen

MSc, PhD student in clinical veterinary medicine.

My PhD project is to study the Fur animal Epidemic Necrotic pyoderma which is a severe skin infection found mainly in the fur animal population. I’m characterizing the pathogens and their virulence factors and developing a vaccine as well as bio safety measures to stop the spread of the disease. My other research interests are currently parvoviruses and vaccine development, and study of emerging pathogens and microbiomes especially through NGS techniques. Links to my previous studies can be found through my Orchid account or through the TUHAT system.

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?

Hussein Alburkat

MSc, PhD student

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.

Phuoc Truong

MSc, PhD student

Mert Erdin

MSc, PhD Student

Luz Eneida Cabrera Lara

MSc, PhD student

Maija Suvanto

MSc, PhD student

Hanna Vauhkonen

Technical staff/researcher

Sanna Mäki

Technical staff

Mira Utriainen

Technical staff

Johanna Martikainen

Technical staff

Simo Miettinen

Technical staff

Anja Oso­la

Technical staff

Esa Poh­jo­lai­nen

Technical staff


Alumni members:

Anu Jääskeläinen (PhD), Niina Putkuri (PhD), Paula Kinnunen (PhD), Heidi Rossow (PhD), Elina Tonteri (PhD), Anna Knuuttila (PhD), Eeva Tuppurainen (PhD), Ingemar von Ossowski (Docent), Cristina Fe­vola (PhD), Satu Hepojoki (PhD), Yegor Korzy­ukov (PhD), Fathiah Zakham (PhD)


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