Characterisation of novel picornavirus-like viruses identified from patients with acute respiratory infections (2007–2010)

The common cold and serious chest colds are usually due to viral infections, and mostly occur in children. Unfortunately we can only be certain of the virus causing this illness in as little as 15% of cases. We intend to address this lack of research by examining, in detail, a new virus we recently identified in a child with serious respiratory illness that required admission to hospital. Testing by our laboratory suggests that the new virus is related to picornaviruses (which cause some common colds) but seems to be present in children with far more serious illness. Our study plans to more completely identify the new picornavirus-like virus (PLV) using the tools of molecular biology and the expertise of a senior team of Australian scientists and clinicians who have recently made several virus discoveries in Australia, demonstrating that Australian virus research is capable of achieving highly competitive results that benefit our hospitals and especially their young patients. Our studies will develop extremely sensitive tests which rely on the detection of very small amounts of the viral genome. We can use these tests to determine what the whole virus looks like, when it might occur during the year and whether the PLV are found worldwide. Our studies will also produce viral proteins in the laboratory and use these to make new tests for stored blood samples. If a blood sample comes from a patient who has previously been infected by PLV, their blood will contain specific antibodies which we will then be able to detect. We also intend to determine whether some strains of PLV are more or less likely to cause serious illness than others. Improved understanding of these and other viruses minimises the chance of illness spreading within a hospital, helps scientists to decide against which viruses to design vaccines and drugs and aids medical doctors to better identify what once went undiagnosed.
Grant type:
NHMRC Project Grant
Funded by:
National Health and Medical Research Council