Name of the lead partner organisation: Veterinary Research Institute

Country of the lead partner organisation: Czech Republic

Project summary:

The TBFVnet project is a network of laboratories that aim to study and survey tick-borne flaviviruses. TBFVnet stands for Tick-Borne Flavivirus network to express the mission of the project to bring together laboratories across Europe with long-standing expertise in tick-borne flaviviruses.

TBFVs include many human and animal pathogens causing severe diseases. These viruses find their way to farm animals, pets and humans through ticks. Even if ticks are widely spread, the viruses they carry have their own geographical distribution. Surveillance data are important to understand the distribution of a pathogen and to establish risk areas and implement countermeasures. Currently, monitoring capacity is unevenly distributed in different countries and TBFVnet aims to fill this gap. The project focuses on specific viruses belonging to the flavivirus family: Tick-Borne encephalitis virus, Powassan virus, Luping-ill virus and Omsk hemorrhagic fever virus. Besides surveillance, TBFVnet also aims to develop novel diagnostic tools and antivirals against tick-borne flavivirus infections. At present no antivirals or treatments for TBFV infections are available and a prophylactic vaccine is only available for Tick-Borne Encephalitis Virus.

In 2019 in Europe there were 3246 confirmed cases of Tick-borne encephalitis alone (with an incidence of seven per million of habitants) marking an increase over the past years. Tick-borne flaviviruses thus represent a common European challenge that can be best addressed through regional cross-border and transnational cooperation. This Project aims to build an international network of laboratories that collect and share expertise, tools and protocols to investigate the biology and the pathogenesis of TBFVs.

The lead partner is the Veterinary Research Institute of the Czech Republic, where the Daniel Ruzek lab works on the pathogenesis of Tick-Borne Encephalitis virus and the development and testing of vaccines and antivirals. The partner institutes are located in five European countries. In Russia, G. Karganova of the Chumakov Federal Scientific Center for Research and Development of Immune-and-Biological Products of Russian Academy of Sciences focuses on the molecular basis of tick-borne flaviviruses. B. Klempa and his team from the Biomedical Research Center of the Slovak Academy of Science work on the ecology of new viruses. In Norway, at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Å. K. Andreassen and her team work on the neurological aspects of TBFV diseases. The laboratory of A. Överby is the Swedish partner from Umeå University that brings expertise to study the life cycle of TBFVs. A. Marcello and his team at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Italy develop and study new diagnostic tools and antivirals.

Big challenges such tick-borne diseases can be faced through international and cross border collaboration. A crucial effort of the project is increasing its partnership. Sharing expertise and knowledge is of the greatest importance for the partners, and welcoming new partners will enrich the network enabling it to reach its objects.

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