WHO Working Group on Influenza Research at the Human/Animal Interface

Activities of this group are now the responsibility of the OFFLU/WHO collaboration
November 2005

The occurrence of influenza virus infections in animals could potentially give rise to human pandemic influenza strains. From the public health perspective there are several areas of research pertaining to the human/animal influenza interface that could have a profound impact on protecting human health.

Group principles.

The Working Group was formed to foster basic research on animal influenza viruses with the goal of understanding why and how animal influenza viruses infect humans. Members are laboratories that have background and facilities needed to study the human-infectious forms of animal influenza viruses. Objectives are reviewed on a regular basis and the transparent sharing of information, reagents and virus strains is a crucial principle guiding the interactions of member laboratories. Yearly meetings allow updating of group missions and research objectives and member laboratories are regularly polled for input on matters relating to the influenza human-animal interface.

The group interacts directly with the OIE/FAO avian influenza laboratory network (OFFLU) and indeed many OFFLU laboratories are members of the Working Group. The Group also works closely with member laboratories in the WHO reference laboratories for diagnosis of influenza A/h5 infection, as well as other members of the entire WHO influenza surveillance network where appropriate.

For further information on the Working Group please send inquiries to

Research objectives on animal influenza viruses for pandemic preparedness.

1. Investigation of the prevalence of avian influenza viruses, in particular H5N1, in domestic birds and animals, e.g. ducks and pigs.

2. Characterization of the circulating gene pool among avian influenza viruses in poultry and pigs in Asia.

a. Employ available reagents and approaches to expand routine surveillance as widely as possible to live markets and slaughterhouses in selected regions of Asia.

b. Goals are to determine the occurrence and distribution of serotypes that are able to enter the commercial animal markets and identify species of origin of genes.
3. Determination of the environmental stability of avian influenza viruses, with emphasis on those strains that have infected humans.
a. To measure stability of existing zoonotic strains under laboratory conditions.

b. To go to the source (e.g. duck farms) and evaluate the stability of strains actually excreted and transmitted in the water.
4. Research to assess the role of migratory birds on the transmission of HPAI to humans in Asia. This research should be coordinated with the proposed FAO Expert ;eeting of Ornithologists and other migratory bird experts.

5. Research to better understand the molecular basis of influenza reassortment and transmissibility both from avian to mammal and animal to human.

6. Establishment and enhancement of genomics databases for Asian animal influenza isolates.
a. Research efforts need to be pointed in the direction of obtaining full genome sequences for all available Asian animal isolates.

b. Such efforts will considerably enhance our knowledge base of molecular factors associated with infection of humans.

c. Such efforts will allow development of real-time PCR reagents that will provide rapid clinical genotyping of isolates.

7. Cross standardization of diagnostic reagents to support research and to establish the extent of antigenic drift that is ongoing in avian influenza virus populations. Standardization/validation of agricultural vaccines.

8. Research to better understand the immunology, pathogenesis and pathogenicity of influenza infections in birds, in particular H5 infections in ducks.

9. Continued serosurveys to evaluate exposure effects to professional groups such as cullers, veterinarians etc.

10. Research to understand the human immune response to infection with avian influenza viruses.

Member Institutions

Australian Animal Health Laboratory,
Geelong, Australia

Central Veterinary Laboratory Agency-Weybridge,
Woodham Lane, New-Haw, Addlestone, Surrey KT15 3NB,
United Kingdom

Department of Disease Control,
Hokkaido University,
Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine,
N-18, W-9, Kita-ku, Sapporo City 060-0818,

Department of Microbiology,
The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Medicine, Queen Mary Hospital,
University Pathology Building,
Hong Kong SAR, China

Department of Pathobiological Sciences and Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology,
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WS,

Harbin Veterinary Research Institute,
Influenza Branch G-16, Animal Influenza Laboratory,
Ministry of Agriculture,
427 Maduan Street, Harbin, 150001,

National Influenza Centre,
Erasmus Universiteit, Dr Molewaterplein 50,
P. O. Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam ,

National Veterinary Services Laboratory,
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,
P.O. Box 844, 1800 Dayton Road, Ames, Iowa. 50010,

OIE and National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza and Newcastle Disease,
Virology Department,
Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie,
Viale dell'Università 10, 35020 Legnaro - Pedova

Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory,
US Department of Agriculture,
Agricultural Research Service,
934 College Station Road, Athens, GA 30605,

WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza,
Influenza Branch, Viral Disease Division, National Centres for Infectious Diseases,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
1600 Clifton Road, Mailstop G16 30333,

WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza,
National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA,
United Kingdom

WHO Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals,
Virology Division, Department of Infectious Disease, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 North Lauderdale St., Memphis TN-38105-2794,

Related links