The Virus Hunter
Viruses have always posed a threat to humans. The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, the emergence of AIDS in the early 1980s and, more recently, outbreaks of hepatitis C, the West Nile virus, SARS and avian influenza are all striking illustrations of this fact.
Up to now, early detection of many viruses has not been possible with conventional diagnostic methods, and as a result physicians and public health authorities have been limited in what they can do for their patients. Furthermore, with the exception of specific therapies developed as HIV inhibitors, there are very few antiviral agents to treat human viruses.
The goal of the research being conducted by chairholder Guy Boivin, who enjoys an international reputation for his work on explaining the mechanisms underlying antiviral resistance, is to identify new viruses affecting humans and characterize the resulting clinical signs and symptoms. With this in mind, Dr. Boivin's team has built a unique diagnostic platform based on early detection of specific genetic sequences for most families of known and new viruses. One of the advantages of this approach is that it will reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics and slow down the growth of resistance to them.
Dr. Boivin and his team are developing a new generation of antiviral drugs to fight viruses attacking the respiratory system and the liver. At the same time, team members are developing vaccines to prevent viral pneumonia and bronchitis in young children and old people.
Viral (respiratory, intestinal, genital, etc.) infections are one of the leading causes of visits to doctors' offices and emergency departments. The diagnostic, therapeutic and preventative tools developed by Dr. Boivin's team will have a significant impact on the management of viral infections in Canada and internationally.