The virulence and pathogenesis part addresses the need for an increased understanding of how the different WNV strains that circulate in Europe differ in their capacity to cause severe disease and the pathways involved in WNV and CHIKV neuroinvasive disease.
The different WNV strains in Europe are assumed to be associated with differences in virulence, i.e. the disease causing capacity of the respective virus strain. So far, two of the four circulating WNV strains, one of which has emerged in Italy and one in Hungary, are known to cause WNV neuroinvasive disease, and therefore may pose a significant threat to humans. It is therefore important to identify virulence and virulence factors, i.e. factors that predict the spreading and disease causing capacity of a virus strain, that are associated with increased transmission and morbidity of different WNV strains. In addition, the WNV strains that are relevant for Europe are defined and targeted for subsequent vaccine development (see Vaccines). Furthermore, this part studies the pathogenesis of WNV and CHIKV neuroinvasive disease using state-of-the-art technology in order to allow for the identification of biomarkers, which are traceable biologic substances that can be used to measure the presence or progress of a disease or the effects of a treatment, and of other leads for novel treatment protocols.