Originated from wild waterfowl, influenza A viruses are capable of infecting variety of host species including human, poultry, horses, swine, cats, dogs, sea and land mammals. Interspecies transmission risk among multiple hosts and the error-prone nature of the virus genome coupled with its segmented structure facilitate the emergence of novel subtypes and strains. Some of these novel variants show altered virulence and transmissibility that might eventually lead to emergence of novel pandemic strains. Therefore, active surveillance studies play a critical role for both public and veterinary health.
|**Adopted from Koçer et al (2013) Emergence of influenza viruses and crossing the species barrier. ASM Microbiology Spectrum 1(2) doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0010-2012|
Our research is focused on the prevalence of influenza A viruses among migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, their molecular characterization and the risk assessment analysis at human-animal interface to understand ecological nature of the disease transmission between different hosts. Our recent studies showed that low pathogenic influenza A viruses (Kocer et al., 2012; Kocer et al., 2015; Zanin et al., 2016) of purely avian origin can cause disease in mammalian models. Moreover, some of these viruses were transmissible between individuals via direct contact or airborne routes of infection (Kocer et al., 2012; Kocer et al., 2015).
Global active influenza surveillance efforts have been carried out in animal and human populations annually to track down the molecular and antigenic changes in the virus genome. Comprehensive risk assessment analyses of individual isolates play a crucial role for taking precautionary actions for outbreak- and pandemic-causing strains. Turkey is located at the heart of the Mediterranean/Black Sea flyway through which billions of migratory birds travel twice a year. In that respect, our study will shed light on the diversity of low pathogenic influenza A viruses in Turkey and the data we gather will connect the dots in the big picture of influenza A evolution.
Our main goal is to perform a comprehensive risk assessment analysis for low pathogenic influenza A viruses of avian-origin in Turkey to assess their disease potential in mammals. This will help us reveal the disease ecology at human-animal interface. To achieve this goal, we aim to (1) determine the prevalence of influenza A viruses among migratory and local waterfowl and shorebirds at Gediz Delta, Izmir, (2) assess the genetic and antigenic changes in virus genomes in currently circulating viruses, and (3) assess their disease potential and transmissibility in mammalian models.