Filoviruses, which include ebola-, marburg-, and cuevaviruses, are notifiable animal disease agents. The natural hosts of these viruses are bats; however, livestock, and particularly pigs, have also been shown to harbor filoviruses. As zoonotic agents filoviruses can be transmitted from animals to humans, and then cause severe hemorrhagic fevers with extremely high case fatality rates. The unprecedented outbreak of ebolavirus hemorrhagic fever in Western Africa in 2014/2015 has demonstrated that these viruses constitute a major threat to public health.
Our focus is the molecular biology of filoviruses, with a particular emphasis on virus-host interactions and the identification of pathogenicity determinants. This aims at finding commonalities between filoviruses and other virus families, which can serve as targets for broad spectrum antivirals that are active not only against filoviruses, but also against other RNA viruses, and at gaining the ability to predict the pathogenic potential of novel filoviruses.
A methodological focus is the development and application of reverse genetics systems for filoviruses. This includes the generation of recombinant infectious ebolaviruses using full-length clone systems, which we work on in the BSL 4-lab for zoonoses of the FLI, as well as life-cycle-modelling systems, which allow work on filoviruses without the need for high containment laboratories.