Stopping New Influenza Viruses in Their Tracks
Each fall and winter in Canada, influenza viruses cause widespread sickness, hospitalizations and in rare cases, death. Occasionally, a new influenza virus not previously detected in humans will emerge somewhere in the world and spread globally. When this happens, it is classified as a “pandemic influenza virus.” A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that spreads across a large region or even worldwide.
As Canada Research Chair in Translational Vaccinology and Inflammation, Dr. David Kelvin’s mission is to identify and characterize these emerging influenza viruses.
Kelvin and his research team a large part of their research in southeast Asia, where several new viruses have emerged in recent years: the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, the H5N1 strain of avian influenza (bird flu) and the more recent H7N9 strain that can cause human infections. Being able to characterize a newly emerging influenza virus early is key to understanding whether it has the ability to spread from person to person, cause severe disease or cause a pandemic.
Kelvin has also teamed up with other researchers in Canada to understand what makes emerging influenza viruses cause severe illness and to develop new vaccines and therapeutics to combat influenza infections.