I am pleased to present ESV News, the Society’s first newsletter, to our members and subscribers. This newsletter will be published four times a year, on the 15th of the first month, in a quarter.
With the occasion I would like to recall you the mission of ESV that is to promote the Science, Art and Profession of Virology in all its disciplines and at all levels in Europe, among institutional, regulatory, public and private Entities. One of the main aims of ESV is to recruit and support young scientists in the field of Virology and to create scientific interactions and collaborations at the European level.
The ESV News is intended as a means to facilitate the access of European virologists to our Organization in order to be informed about our initiatives and our structure. For this important task we have also recently modified the Society’s website with improved configuration, clear navigation and a new layout, that was officially launched on 01 January 2016.
In the ESV News we would like to debate hot topics in Virology and in related fields that represent real breakthrough in Science. A dedicated section, constantly updated, can be found in the website.
In this first ESV News, Bernhard Fleckenstein will cover the recent epidemics of Ebola virus disease in Western Africa, that has been a real threat to the World Health Organization and to the human kind for its incredibly large geographical diffusion and dimension of population affected. Bernhard Fleckenstein will discuss about pathogenic mechanisms and new approaches to vaccine. In a separate presentation he will also address the final document of the European Academy Scientific Advisory Council on Gain of Function (GOF) research dealing with potentially pandemic agents. This document was recently presented at the EU Authorities in Brussels. GOF research is an ongoing open debate that stemmed from work on influenza viruses from Kawaoka’ and Fouchier’ groups, published in Nature and Science. It has also been a field for controversy among scientists and Institutions, an issue to which ESV has been contributing by participating to important meetings and events worldwide and by addressing the President of the European Commission with the aim of defending European virologists from discrimination.
Gabriella Campadelli-Fiume, Thomas Mertens, and Dana Wolff will present a report of the 3rd EuSeV in Bertinoro, an annual initiative that confront young researchers with senior investigators on selected topics. The last topic was dedicated to emerging and re-emerging pathogens.
Furthermore, this ESV News gives me the occasion of anticipating the events organized and supported by the Society in 2016:
The 4th European Seminars in Virology (EuSeV) in June 2016 in Bertinoro, Italy will be focused on Viral Oncology and Virotherapy. The European Seminars in Virology (EuSeV) are meant to be small, single-theme, highly attractive meetings for young European virologists, particularly PhD students and post-docs, in addition to senior virologists willing to participate. The talks are delivered by a selected group of Speakers. The topic of the EuSeV varies each time, and covers different aspects of basic, medical or clinical virology. The long term objective is to provide an instrument for doctoral and post-doctoral education and training, and to make a focus on key issues, thus implementing Virology in Europe. The 4thEuropean Seminars in Virology will take place from 10 to 12 June, 2016 in Bertinoro, Italy. Detailed information will be provided in early 2016.
The 3rd Innovative Approaches for Identification of Antiviral Agents Summer School that will take place from 29 September to 2 October, 2016 in Santa Margherita di Pula, Italy. This Summer School aims to provide an informal and interactive environment to review the application of high throughput screening techniques to identification of novel and clinically-significant antiviral drugs. The Summer School is targeted to researchers at an early stage in their career, combining examples of drug discovery from internationally-recognized experts in the field with informal, small-group thematic discussion sessions. Evening sessions will allow students to present their work in the form of either a poster or oral presentations and receive feedback from their colleagues.
The 6th European Congress of Virology (ECV) from 19 to 22 October 2016 in Hamburg, Germany. It is the premier virology conference in Europe and is organized by Joachim Hauber and his colleagues from the Heinrich-Pette-Institut, Hamburg, on behalf of the European Society for Virology. ECV2016 will bring together both junior and senior scientists, and will cover all aspects of virus research including basic, clinical, veterinary and plant virology. Call for Abstracts will start in February, 2016. Detailed information about registration and accommodation will be provided in early 2016. Please be aware that ESV offers 20 travel grants of EUR 500 each for graduate students to support their participation to the Congress. If you wish to be informed by e-mail when registration starts, please subscribe to the convener’s mailing listhttp://www.eurovirology2016.eu/newsletter.html. Please see http://www.eurovirology2016.eu/ for more information.
Finally I take this opportunity to wish happy holidays to you and your families and I hope to see you numerous in Hamburg next year and more and more engaged in our initiatives.
President of the European Society for Virology
WHAT HAS THE WORLD LEARNED FROM THE EBOLA CRISIS?
Bernhard Fleckenstein, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
Ebola fever has been recognized as a distinct disease entity in 1976 in the course of a circumscribed outbreak in the rainforest zone of the Northern Congo basin, and subsequently a novel filovirus, related to the formerly described Marburg virus, was identified as the causative agent. In the first known epidemic, 318 cases and 280 fatalities were documented. During the following decades, about twelve local outbreaks occurred in Zaire, Sudan, Uganda and Gabon with an estimated case fatality rate between 30 % and 90 %. All of these epidemic events could be confirmed by general measures of prevention and hygiene, and they remained limited to a death toll of less than 300 fatalities. In the West-African Ebola epidemic of 2014, all appeared different, with some 11,300 fatal courses, with nearly 15,200 laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola virus infection, and an estimated number of 28,000 clinical manifestations. It had devastating consequences for the economy of the heavily affected countries Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The world was not prepared for an epidemic of this dimension. The regional health systems decompensated, and many months elapsed until international support, mostly from the United States, and, to some extent, from a few European countries became effective. In the absence of antiviral therapeutic measures, none of the three existing experimental vaccines was available to the exposed medical personnel, and the death toll occurring among health care workers was dreadful.
In the epidemic of 2014, the dynamics of Ebola virus spread appeared unprecedented. What were the determinants of the highly aggressive spreading patterns in the 2014 epidemic? Was it viral factors, causing a higher contagiousness? Or was it solely social and political circumstances, favoring inexorable spreading?
Sequence analyses of the West African virus isolates have shown that the virus had segregated from the Central African pool of Zaire Ebola virus some eight years before. However, molecular determinants of contagiousness have not been defined up to now, and the relevant viral pathogenicity factors are still unknown. Now, in retrospect, we can assume that the molecular determinants of viral expansion were not significantly different in the 2014 epidemic, if compared to the earlier Central African isolates. Remarkably, the 2014 epidemic did not rapidly spread into the neighboring West African countries, though sporadic cases occurred. Most likely, the 2014 epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was inflamed in its initial phases by behavioral and cultural peculiarities in the population; it could be intensive border-crossing and trade between the three countries. Liberia and Sierra Leone had been revenged by civil wars during the past decades; in consequence, health systems are damaged. Communication, including health education, between governmental authorities and part of the population is necessarily impaired.
The West African health crisis of 2014 had an enormous impact on the awareness of the world on the dangers of emerging virus outbreaks. Though after painstaking delays, the final victory over the epidemic by international efforts gave confidence that concerted efforts can be effective in the battle against epidemics such as Ebola and Marburg fever, SARS or MERS, and this opinion has now been adopted by leading politicians. The leaders’ declaration of the G7 Summit on Schloss Elmau, Germany, on 7/8 June 2015, has expressed a strong commitment to the prevention of future epidemics by assisting to the implementation of WHO regulations and a number of further multilateral initiatives. The declaration emphasizes the Ebola crisis had shown that the world needs the support for an initiative taken by the World Bank group to develop a Pandemic Emergency Facility. The political leaders promise to coordinate the fight against future epidemics and to set up or strengthen mechanisms for the rapid deployment of multidisciplinary teams of experts in a common platform.
The World Bank has thankfully acknowledged the endorsement by the G7 group of political leaders. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank group, has emphasized that the rapid employment of international expert teams is essential upon the first signs of an emerging epidemic. Originally, the World Bank proposed to create a global health fund that could secure the organizational basis and guarantee at any time the activation of intervention teams to extinguish emerging epidemics in the earliest possible phase. However, this initiative of the World Bank executives was not accepted by all member states, notably the European countries. Thus, the World Bank developed an alternative approach, based on a private public partnership model by recruiting internationally leading insurance companies, such as Munich Re and Swiss Re. According to this, the rich industrial countries would take over the financial burden of calculable insurance policies, and private insurance industry can guarantee the financial basis that the intervention teams can rapidly act at any time. This novel concept, continuous payment commodities against readiness in epidemiologically critical situations, has been well received by the World Bank members. The common intention is to implement new structures in Third World countries, and this should motivate for more national investments into the local wealth systems. This insurance model for the fight against emerging epidemics and, possibly, pandemic outbreaks should include training programs for medical personnel and an active role in the coordination of humanitarian help during an acute health crisis. The new concept is a major challenge for both side, the international organizer World Bank and the private partners, the insurance industries. They must cope with the risks that are imposed by virological, clinical, epidemiological, political, social and economic factors. It requires clear epidemiological categories to define thresholds where and when to enter into action. With these instruments at hand, there might be a good chance that we will not see again an Ebola crisis like the West African epidemic of the year 2014. The West African Ebola epidemic has widely changed the attitude towards emerging infectious diseases, public awareness and political support. To avoid rapid oblivion, it is necessary now to invest into new structures such as the Word Bank/insurers’ partnership. In parallel, there must remain the motivation to bring the experimental vaccines closer to applicability. New structures in the fight against Ebola fever may help in the battle against other tropical diseases or looming epidemics, such as West Nile fever, Rift Valley fever, Lassa fever or SARS. We will never be on the safe side; the next health crisis might arise like a black swan; the best we can do is to create new prevention structures as soon as possible.
STATEMENT OF THE EUROPEAN ACADEMIES SCIENCE ADVISORY COUNCIL ON GAIN OF FUNCTION RESEARCH WITH POTENTIALLY PANDEMIC PATHOGENS
Bernhard Fleckenstein, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
Influenza viruses are a major threat for public health at a world wide scale. We do not know which virus subtype will cause the next pandemic outbreak, and the molecular determinants of pathogenicity and transmissibility are still largely unknown. Gain of function influenza virus research refers to recent experiments, particularly on the H5N1 avian variants, aiming to understand the viral gene functions that determine the pandemic potential. Intensive discussions have taken place during the past few years about the possible consequences with regard to (1) biosecurity issues, safeguarding against intentional misuse, and (2) biosafety aspects, related to the inadvertent release of harmful virus. Prof. Giorgio Palù addressed a letter dated to 16 October 2013 to Mr José Manuel Barroso asking for more professional structures in the European Union to regulating working conditions and spread of knowledge. Prof. Simon Wain-Hobson sent a counter letter, dated to 18 October 2013, to the EU commission president, emphasizing the extremely risky aspects of influenza virus gain-of-function research, calling for a comprehensive risk-benefit assessment by the scientific community. After numerous, partly emotional, debates in a series of meetings throughout Europe and the United States, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) has now published a comprehensive statement under the title “Gain of function: experimental applications relating to potentially pandemic pathogens”; it was officially presented in Brussels on 21 October 2015. The report was written by consultation with a working group of 14 experts in myxovirus research and biosafety matters, including Profs. Giorgio Palù and Simon Wain-Hobson. This paper may now be regarded as consensus recommendation of the European science community. The authors endorse the commitment to good practice that is already in place in Member states which “depends on (1) conforming with regulations and codes of conduct; (2) justification of research to funders and peers on a case-by case basis; and (3) attention to safety conditions according to established procedures of biorisk management”. The group calls for increasing efforts to raise awareness, including education and training. The authors see a continuing role for the established academies in increasing the understanding of biosafety and biosecurity harms, and they do not favor the creation of new organizations to formally regulate biosafety and biosecurity issues in Europe. EASAC recommends that researchers and their institutions recognize their responsibility to make decisions about publishing sensitive information. The authors feel that the scientific community should provide advice on the revision of the European Commission’s Export Control Regulation, as they regard this regulation as an inappropriate vehicle to block publication. EASAC sees the problems of gain-of-function research in a global context, asking for an international forum to sustain the dialogue between science and policy-making communities in a global discussion. The next newsletter (2/2016) will report in more detail on the scientific background of the debate and the individual recommendations of the EASAC consensus communication.
BRIEF REPORT ON THE 3RD EUROPEAN SEMINAR IN VIROLOGY “RE-EMERGING VIRUSES”
19 – 21 JUNE, 2015 – CENTRO UNIVERSITARIO BERTINORO, ITALY
Gabriella Campadelli-Fiume, University of Bologna, Italy
Thomas Mertens, University of Ulm, Germany
Dana Wolff, Hadassah Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
The European Seminars in Virology are short meetings dedicated to dissect one topic – or two related topics. The idea is to gather expert personalities on the selected topic from Europe, and occasionally from US, and to bring young students and post-docs in contact with the leaders in the field. The meeting lasts a weekend (from Friday noon to Sunday noon), and is held in Italy, in a facility of the University of Bologna. The facility includes a renovated fortress and nearby buildings. All meals are taken together, to further foster informal contacts and the discussion. Previous years’ seminars focused on “Innate and adaptive immune responses” (2013), and on “Vaccines and Antivirals” (2014).
The 2015 EuSeV was dedicated to “Re-Emerging Viruses”, and covered the biology of replication, structural insight of key viral proteins, molecular events in virus entry, pathogenesis, host response, epidemiology, experimental therapies and experimental vaccines, novel diagnostic approaches, as well as field activities in the case of Ebolavirus and MERS virus.
Ralf Bartenschlager, University of Heidelberg, Germany, discussed the molecular biology and pathogenesis of Dengue virus, and the signaling activity of NS4, including the unfolded protein response and autophagy, and the evasion activity of NS1 analyzed through mutants that are unable to interact with the capsidic, E and prM structural proteins.
Luis Enjuanes, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. National Center of Biotechnology (CNB-CSIC), Madrid, Spain, illustrated the signaling pathways of SARS-CoV and MERS virus, in particular of the E glycoprotein, and their contribution to inflammation and pathogenesis; it included the description of a murine model.
Paul Duprex, Boston University, USA, dissected the pathogenesis of measles virus in vivo, including organ and mucosal distribution, by means of a GFP-tagged measles virus.
Marc Jamin, Université Grenoble Alpes, Grenoble, France, reported on structural analysis of the nucleoprotein of the replication complex of Nipah virus, and modifications thereof exerted by a small fragment of the phosphoprotein. A comparison with the well-studied system of VSV was discussed.
Karin Stiasny, University of Wien, reported her long-term studies on the mechanisms of flavivirus membrane fusion, in particular of the Thick borne encephalitis virus.
Ed Mocarski, Emory University, USA, compared the different mechanisms of cell death, including apoptosis, necrosis and necroptosis, and the markers that characterize them. A focus was made on Cytomegalovirus and its mechanisms of evasion from necroptosis. He further showed how necroptosis may act as a cross-species barrier to transmission of viruses between species
The talk by Felix Rey, Pasteur Institute, centered on the identification of broadly neutralizing antibodies based on elegant structural analysis of the entry glycoprotein of different serotypes of Dengue virus.
Franz Heinz, University of Wien, exemplified the changes in the epidemiology and the diffusion from Central and East Asia to Europe for Tick-borne encephalitis virus. These epidemiologic studies showed peculiar micro-ecological requirements for virus diffusion.
Sebastian Ulbert, Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology, Leipzig, Germany, showed the latest developments and challenges in the diagnosis of human flaviviruses including DENV, TBEV, USUV, given that the existing antibody-based assays are compromised by cross-reactivity. This is of special concern in outbreaks characterized by the co-circulation of different flaviviruses.
Sharon Melamed, Israel, covered the issue of a potential smallpox re-emergence, and how to extend the efficacy of a post exposure smallpox vaccination, using an airway infection of mice with ectromelia virus as a model for human smallpox .
Stefania di Marco, Reithera, Rome, covered the promising clinical trials of Ebola vaccine developed using the chimpanzee Adenovirus vector, and its T-cell response.
Heinz Feldmann, Bethesda, USA, reviewed the use of experimental therapies and vaccines against Ebolavirus.
Anna Papa, University of Thessaloniki, Greece, presented the epidemiology of emerging viruses, including West Nile virus, Tick-borne encephalitis virus, Toscana virus and Chikungunya virus in the Balkans and the Mediterranean; while Luisa Barzon, Padua, Italy, illustrated the epidemiology of West Nile Virus in Italy since its first appearance in 1998, with emphasis on recent diagnostic advances. Stephan Günther, Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine German Center for Infection Research, Hamburg, illustrated Lassa virus – from the bench to the field,
Two talks covered the MERS outbreak in Saudi Arabia. Marion Koopmans, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, illustrated the zoonotic source of MERS virus the transmission to humans, and inter-human transmission as it emerged from field studies. Marcel Müller, Institute of Virology, University of Bonn, Germany, illustrated a large seroepidemiological study.
Ab Osterhaus, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Thomas Mettenleiter, Friedrich-Loeffler Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, covered the pandemic flu strains, emergence, diffusion, and pathogenesis
The field approach for containment of Ebolavirus infection outbreak in Africa was described by Noël Tordo, Institute Pasteur, Paris, France, explaining the efforts of his Institution, including the setup of a BL4 diagnostic laboratory in the field.
In addition to the state-of–the–art presentations, the EuSeV 2015 included oral and poster presentations, selected from submitted abstracts.
The meeting successfully bridged between basic science, developmental, and clinical aspects of (Re)-Emerging viruses.
NEWS AND UPDATES
NEW WEBSITE LAUNCHED
We are pleased to announce that our website has completely been redesigned with improved configuration, clear navigation and a new layout. Officially launched on 01 January 2016, it provides our members and interested parties with all the relevant information on the society, membership, events and grants. Please have a look atwww.eusv.eu or www.european-virology.eu and feel free to send us your comments and suggestions to email@example.com. Enjoy exploring!
ECV 2016 – 20 ESV TRAVEL GRANTS FOR JUNIOR SCIENTISTS
The European Society for Virology offers 20 travel grants of EUR 500 each for graduate students (PhD or MD) to participate in the 6th European Congress of Virology, held from 19-22 October, 2016 in Hamburg, Germany. Candidates should not yet have completed their doctoral thesis and actively participate in the conference. Applications including the candidate’s name and current address, conference abstract, statement describing the relevance of participation in ECV 2016 for the candidate’s research project, résumé, list of publications (if applicable), and a letter of recommendation from the applicant’s doctoral thesis supervisor should be sent by email to Joachim Hauber, President of ECV 2016 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Deadline for applications is 30 April, 2016.
Awardees will be selected directly by the organizing committee of ECV 2016 based on the scientific quality and relevance of their submitted abstracts.
YOUNG SCIENTISTS TRAVEL AWARDS FOR XVITH INTERNATIONAL PARVOVIRUS WORKSHOP
The European Society for Virology provides three travel grants for young scientists who are actively participating in the XVIth International Parvovirus Workshop to be held from 19-23 June, 2016 in Ajaccio, France. Each travel grant amounts to EUR 330. For further information, please contact Dr Mylène Ogliastro, organizer of the workshop (email@example.com).
4TH EUROPEAN SEMINARS IN VIROLOGY: VIRAL ONCOLOGY AND VIROTHERAPY
10 – 12 June, 2016
The “European Seminars in Virology” (EuSeV) are meant to be small, single-theme, highly attractive meetings for young European virologists, particularly PhD students and post-docs, in addition to senior virologists willing to participate. The talks are delivered by a selected group of Speakers. Detailed information will be provided soon.
3RD INNOVATIVE APPROACHES FOR IDENTIFICATION OF ANTIVIRAL AGENTS SUMMER SCHOOL
29 September – 2 October, 2016
Santa Margherita di Pula, Italy
This Summer School aims to provide an informal and interactive environment to review the application of high throughput screening techniques to identification of novel and clinically-significant antiviral drugs. The Summer School is targeted to researchers at an early stage in their career, combining examples of drug discovery from internationally-recognized experts in the field with informal, small-group thematic discussion sessions. Evening sessions will allow students to present their work in the form of either a poster or oral presentations and receive feedback from their colleagues.
6TH EUROPEAN CONGRESS OF VIROLOGY
19 – 22 October, 2016
The European Congress of Virology (ECV) is the premier virology conference in Europe and organized by Joachim Hauber and his colleagues from the Heinrich-Pette-Institut, Hamburg, on behalf of the European Society for Virology. ECV2016 will bring together both junior and senior scientists, and will cover all aspects of virus research including basic, clinical, veterinary and plant virology.
Call for Abstracts will start in February, 2016
Detailed information about registration and accommodation will be provided in early 2016.
If you wish to be informed by e-mail when registration starts, please subscribe to the convenor’s mailinglisthttp://www.eurovirology2016.eu/newsletter.html
Please see http://www.eurovirology2016.eu/ for more information.
FURTHER CONFERENCES AND EVENTS OF INTEREST
ANNUAL MEETING OF THE ASSOCIATION FOR GENERAL AND APPLIED MICROBIOLOGY (VAAM)
13 – 16 March, 2016
WORKSHOP: 4TH ONE HEALTH COURSE (ANTIGONE FP7 EU)EUROPEAN CONGRESS OF VIROLOGY
04 – 20 April, 2016
Paris and Maisons-Alfort, France
26TH EUROPEAN CONGRESS OF CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES (ECCMID 2016)
09 – 12 April, 2016
XVITH INTERNATIONAL PARVOVIRUS WORKSHOP
19 – 23 June, 2016
FRONTIERS OF RETROVIROLOGY 2016 – COMPLEX RETROVIRUSES, RETROELEMENTS AND THEIR HOSTS
12 – 14 September, 2016