Mosquito-borne Viruses:
Epidemiology, pathogenesis and interventions

Mosquito borne viruses pose major threats to public health in Hong Kong and the region, but remain a poorly researched area in Hong Kong. Japanese encephalitis is enzootic in wild birds and swine in Hong Kong, occasionally causing human disease.

 

There is increasing frequency of locally transmitted dengue outbreaks. Aedes albopictus mosquito, which is abundant in Hong Kong, is potentially capable of transmitting chikungunya and dengue. The unexpected change of disease pattern of Zika, a virus known for over four decades as an occasional cause of human infection to one that caused massive outbreaks with microcephaly in South and Central America, leading to the declaration of a “public health emergency of international concern”, highlights the unpredictable disease potential of mosquito-borne viruses.

 

Furthermore, a number of mosquito borne viruses that cause human disease are documented in China (e.g. Tahyna, Banna), but their activities are poorly investigated in Hong Kong as well as in China. The aim of this program is to investigate mosquito borne virus threats, spanning field research, epidemiology, transmissibility, public health and basic research on virus pathogenesis.

KEY PROJECTS

  1. Investigation of the diversity and abundance of mosquito vectors and mosquito-borne viruses found in Hong Kong and characterizing their vectorial capacity;
     

  2. Investigation of host factors involved in the life cycle of dengue, Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya, and in the pathogenesis of severe dengue to develop therapeutic interventions;
     

  3. Investigation of the risk factors and pathogenesis of severe dengue with the aim to develop novel therapeutic interventions.

DELIVRABLES

  1. A strong multidisciplinary research capacity to investigate mosquito borne virus and respond to vector-borne virus threats;
     

  2. A public health capacity to assess risk of endemic transmission of mosquito borne viral infections in Hong Kong;
     

  3. Development of evidence-based interventions to prevent diseases, define pathogenesis, and risk factors of severe dengue for improved patient care.

KEY RESEARCH STAFF IN THE TEAM

The team have a record of accomplishment in field research, vector competence studies, basic research, pathogenesis and public health response in mosquito-borne viruses and we will leverage the world-leading expertise of our partner, the Institut Pasteur, in research on mosquito-borne virus diseases. 

Tommy TY Lam (HKU) has studied evolution of vector borne diseases, and together with Benoit Guenard (HKU), has initiated a pilot project surveying mosquito vectors in Hong Kong. 

Malik Peiris (HKU) has had extensive experience with research and public health response in mosquito borne diseases carried out prior to his arrival in Hong Kong. 

Sumana Sanyal (University of Oxford) and Roberto Bruzzone (HKU-PRP & IP) have a record of accomplishment investigating the cell biology of dengue and Zika viruses. 

Chris Mok (HKU-PRP) is a molecular virologist who has investigated the clinical and epidemiological features of the 2014 outbreak of dengue fever in Guangzhou (PR China).

Michael Chan (HKU) has developed experimental models to study the pathogenesis of viral infections. 

Anna-Bella Failloux (IP) will collaborate on mosquito vector competence studies and will provide overall entomological advice. 

GN Malavige (University of Sri Jayawardenepura) is a global leader in clinical research on dengue; she will provide access to clinical material from her patient cohorts in Sri Lanka and advice to the program on dengue pathogenesis.

We will collaborate with the CHP and FEHD in Hong Kong and with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Tropical Disease Prevention and Control Alliance, thereby contributing to the control of mosquito borne virus threats in the Greater Bay Area.

THE TEAM

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Tommy Lam

Principal Investigator 

Dr Tommy Lam received his BSc (Bioinformatics) and PhD (Molecular Virology) in The University of Hong Kong, and had postdoctoral training in Pennsylvania State University and University of Oxford. His main research interest is the evolution, epidemiology and ecology of infectious diseases.

 

He uses integrative genomic approach to determine the patterns, drivers and mechanisms of the emergence of pathogens at human-animal interface including influenza viruses and coronaviruses, as well as some bacterial pathogens and their antibiotic resistance emergence. His research has contributed to important understanding of the origins, evolution and transmission of newly emerging pathogens such as H7N9 influenza (Nature 2013, Nature 2015), MERS coronavirus (EID2013, Science 2016) and COVID-19 coronavirus (Nature 2020). He is also leading the development of several computational methods and tools for the genomic analysis in the research community.

 

Publications 

Iolanthe Lan

Research Scientist

Elliott Miot

Postdoctoral Fellow

Lucy De Guilhem De Lataillade

Research Assistant

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